After a subpar first debate performance, President Obama was present and lively in debate number two on Tuesday night. As always, I believe Obama won on substance because Romney’s prescription for what ails this country is all wrong. But it’s up to President Obama to clearly explain why that is, and why he is the better choice and deserves a second term. The president did that last night.
And it is clear Obama stopped the bleeding from his first debate performance. I’m not sure I would say he dominated the debate last night, but he did take control at times, and he was cordial toward debate moderator Candy Crowley. Mitt Romney, however, lost composure on a few occasions and appeared to bully Crowley. But in the end, Obama spoke for several more minutes than Romney.
The core of President Obama’s strategy in this debate was to paint Mitt Romney as someone who cannot be trusted. Romney may say one thing during the debate, but we know where his true allegiances lie. Near the end of the debate, Obama finally mentioned Romney’s “47 percent” statement, which was MIA during the first debate. Romney’s “47 percent” statement should be front and center through the last three weeks of this election. Romney has since called it “ineloquent,” but I think Romney has never sounded so eloquent. He was right at home, speaking to his core audience, and it sounded quite sincere to me.
Obama gained back some ground on national security and specifically the Libya consulate attack. Obama successfully defended his administration, stating that there will be a full investigation, and he did so while saying, accurately I might add, that Romney attempted to politicize the attack. One of the more entertaining parts of the debate was during this exchange (excerpt from Politico debate transcript):
ROMNEY: I — I think [it's] interesting the president just said something which — which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.
OBAMA: That's what I said.
ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you're saying?
OBAMA: Please proceed governor.
Candy Crowley then fact-checked on-the-fly and said that President Obama did indeed call it an act of terror. At the point where Obama said “please proceed governor,” he looked a bit agitated by Romney’s pestering, but none-the-less the president was the more authoritative (adult) on stage during this exchange.
Also entertaining (and just plain odd) was when Romney said he received “whole binders full of women,” that enabled him to hire women to fill many administration jobs when he was governor of Massachusetts. Only Romney can come up with these phrases. This started a meme on Twitter with the hash tag of #BindersFullofWomen, and a Facebook page.
The biggest improvement for Obama in this debate was that he appeared fully engaged, and he rarely stumbled or paused before answering questions. Before the debate I thought the town hall style would work to Obama’s advantage, and I was not proven wrong.