|A Palpable Sense of Dislike|
There were plenty of memorable moments in the Tuesday night townhall debate. President Obama regained some of the footing he lost with what was universally regarded as a poor performance at the first presidential debate Oct. 3. Here are some of the more important and tense moments in an engaging face-off between the president and his challenger.
"There was a palpable sense of dislike" in the room, according to ABC's White House correspondent Jake Tapper. Here are some of those moments, without replaying the whole debate – we leave off key sections about immigration, the auto bailout and more. To the right is a single video recap. And on the subsequent slides are some of the most important, humorous and contentious moments of the townhall debate at Hofstra on Oct. 16.
|The Libya Question|
When President Obama said he had referred on Sept. 12 to the attack in Libya as an "act of terror" it caught Mitt Romney off guard. The Republican clearly didn't realize that Obama had used those words in his speech on the Benghazi, Libya consulate attack the day after. The president told Romney to check the transcript. And moderator Candy Crowley affirmed that Obama had used those words on Sept. 12. But it's also true that the Obama administration shied away in the immediate aftermath from calling the consulate attack, which claimed the lives of four Americans, including U.S. Amb. Chris Stevens, a terror attack. So while Obama did use those words – "acts of terror" – during a speech on the attacks, that was not the administration's main immediate response to the attack, which they argued may have been the result of an inflammatory Internet video.
Despite being mostly correct, Romney's confusion and Crowley's affirmation of Obama was a definitive debate moment.
The townhall debate was at times heated and contentious. The most arresting moment came when Mitt Romney confronted Barack Obama over his energy policy. The two men stared each other down, standing close to one another, fingers raised and talking over each other. Obama was expected to be more aggressive at this debate than during his lackluster appearance at the first presidential debate two weeks ago. But the open floor and with both men able to approach the other, the moment over the seemingly mundane issue of permits issued for oil and gas exploration and drilling.
Much of the pre-debate chatter had to do with CNN's Candy Crowley, who was selected by the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates to moderate. The format was a townhall, but Crowley made clear that she intended to ask follow-up questions. That led to some hand-wringing from the two campaigns before the debate. A 21-page "memorandum of understanding" about debate rules was signed was leaked to Time Magazine's Mark Halperin. During the debate Crowley did ask plenty of follow-ups. But it seemed like she was interrupted as much as she did the interrupting.
|Obama: My Pension "Not as Big as Yours"|
Mitt Romney was trying to make the point that President Obama's pension has some money held overseas, including in China and Cayman islands. That's true, but the pension is from the president's time as an Illinois state senator and he is not in control of it. The moment, however, came when the president made a comment about how his pension isn't as big as Romney's pension.
|Romney Courts Women Voters Using Binders|
Most political analysts argue that if Mitt Romney is going to win the White House, he is going to have to perform well with suburban women, many of whom voted for President Obama in 2008 and many of whom have more moderate positions on abortion rights and other issues than Mitt Romney took during the GOP primary. That is why he argued that as governor, he hired women into important roles in his administration and that he supports more flexible hours. But his choice of words, saying that "binders of women" were delivered to him, immediately took on a life of its own online.
|Add It Up|
Barack Obama accused Mitt Romney of being too vague with his tax plan and not being able to live up to his promise of lowering tax rates without adding to the deficit. President Obama called it a "sketchy deal" at Tuesday's debate. But Romney, while he did not offer specifics on which deductions he would end to pay for his plan, declared the math does add up.
"If somehow when you get in there, there isn't enough tax revenue coming in. If somehow the numbers don't add up, would you be willing to look again at a 20 percent (rate cuts)?" Crowley asked.
"Well of course they add up. I -- I was -- I was someone who ran businesses for 25 years, and balanced the budget. I ran the Olympics and balanced the budget. I ran the -- the state of Massachusetts as a governor, to the extent any governor does, and balanced the budget all four years. When we're talking about math that doesn't add up, how about $4 trillion of deficits over the last four years, $5 trillion? That's math that doesn't add up. We have -- we have a president talking about someone's plan in a way that's completely foreign to what my real plan is," said Romney.
|The 47 Percent vs. The 100 Percent|
The candidates were asked in the final question of the night how they have been misrepresented by the other side. Mitt Romney used the opportunity to obliquely refer to his infamous "47 percent" comment made behind closed doors at a fundraiser earlier this year. He said then that he can't hope to reach about 47 percent of the population. And he labeled them as the people who rely on government and don't pay income taxes. While he has since walked the statement back, his closing argument at the townhall focused on criticism he has received as a result of the comment.
"It seems that some campaigns are focused on attacking a person rather than prescribing their own future and the things they'd like to do. In the course of that, I think the president's campaign has tried to characterize me as -- as someone who's very different than who I am," Romney said. "I care about 100 percent of the American people. I want 100 percent of the American people to have a bright and prosperous future. I care about our kids. I understand what it takes to make a bright and prosperous future for America again. I spent my life in the private sector, not in government. I'm a guy who wants to help with the experience I have, the American people."
President Obama took the opportunity in his own closing argument to bring up the 47 percent comment too.
"I believe Governor Romney is a good man. Loves his family, cares about his faith. But I also believe that when he said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considered themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility, think about who he was talking about," said Obama.
"Folks on Social Security who've worked all their lives. Veterans who've sacrificed for this country. Students who are out there trying to hopefully advance their own dreams, but also this country's dreams. Soldiers who are overseas fighting for us right now. People who are working hard every day, paying payroll tax, gas taxes, but don't make enough income. And I want to fight for them. That's what I've been doing for the last four years. Because if they succeed, I believe the country succeeds."