Well the verdict is in: The President did show up tonight. But as opposed to the empty chair President Obama featured in the first debate, this time it was the truth that was often times missing from his performance.
In terms of style, Mitt Romney did not change all that much from debate one. He still vigorously went after Obama’s record and repeated one of his main lines that, “we don’t have to settle for this.” The big change was the demeanor of the President. He definitely had the fire and had what seemed like a rhetorical bloodlust for Romney all night. Every answer featured an attack on Romney’s personal finances or his record. He wasn’t as outwardly rude as Vice President Biden was, but he still poked his way into Romney’s answers.
The questions were from uncommitted voters from New York State and mainly dealt with the economy and domestic issues. Obama attacked Romney for saying that Detroit should “go bankrupt.” However, it was the President that actually let the auto companies go bankrupt and then rebuild. The President assailed Romney as having a one-point plan for the economy, which was based around helping the wealthy. Again, that might be what Obama wants to think Romney’s plan is, but Romney actually centers the plan on the middle class and broad economic growth.
One of the first angry exchanges of the night was about gas prices. Romney attacked Obama for not allowing drilling and new pipelines, while Obama asserted that it was the recession that began under President Bush that was to blame for the price of gas fluctuating. When talking coal and natural gas, Romney attacked Obama by telling him, “I don’t think anyone believes that you will fight for oil, coal, and natural gas.”
On taxes, Obama again went after Romney for being too nice to the top wage earners. As much as Romney keeps saying the rich won’t pay less, Obama keeps hammering the point. Especially in this section, it seemed President Obama’s only response to the Romney plan was to call it untrue. Beyond that he never said why cutting taxes would, in his mind, be a bad thing for the economy. His plan would raise taxes on the wealthy even though it’s mathematically impossible to pay for all of the President’s new spending while only taxing the rich. The question needs to be asked, who else will the President have to tax? I wouldn’t mind hearing some specifics on that.
After that there were a series of questions that really were right up Obama’s alley. Questions on equal pay, contraception, and how Romney compared with President Bush all fit into the Obama campaign’s own attack lines against Romney. That he’s anti-woman or that he’s the same old Republican. The President also had a four-minute edge in total time for the night.
The last big exchange was on the terrorist attack in Libya that killed four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Romney attacked Obama for mishandling the aftermath and giving out false information to the press in the week following the attack. The administration’s claim that the attack was a protest, and not a terrorist act was the point Romney hammered home. Obama was indignant on this and accused Romney of playing politics with dead Americans. It seemed that moment was when Obama was at his most animated and almost visibly angry.
Overall, my partisan opinion would be that Romney continued a well-oiled prosecution of the Obama record. However, based on Obama’s resurgence and actually showing he possessed a pulse, I think I’d honestly call the debate a draw. Both men did what they needed to do to energize their respective bases. Going into the final debate next Monday, both men seemed more eager and more fervent in their ambition to win this race.
*The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.