NEW YORK - Like the vice presidential debate last week, the Democrat and the Republican candidate on stage last night were not so much talking to each other as they were to two different audiences.
As ABC News Political Director Amy Walter notes, President Obama's job was to rev up his flagging base and convince wavering supporters that he actually wants another term. And, he accomplished that with his aggressive performance.
One of those moments came when Obama took Romney to task for accusing him of focusing on politics in the aftermath of the attack in Libya.
"The suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the Secretary of State, our U.N. Ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we've lost four of our own, governor, is offensive," Obama said. "That's not what we do. That's not what I do as president, that's not what I do as Commander in Chief."
Mitt Romney, on the other hand, needed to appeal to those disaffected Obama supporters, like moderate suburban women and soft Republicans. His job was to try to shatter the caricature that had been created of him by months of attack ads and the 47 percent video.
He presented a more moderate Mitt: pushing back on suggestions he was going to restrict access to contraception and reminding voters that his health care plan in Massachusetts covered almost 100 percent of the children in his state.
"I don't believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not," Romney said at one point. "And I don't believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care of not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives."
Obama's command of the stage last night - and his 180 improvement from his listless performance in Denver - made it easy for the chattering class to declare him the winner.
Even so, his win is not going to upend the race in the way that Romney's success at the Denver debate did.
Ultimately, this debate is likely to stop what was turning into snowballing momentum for Romney, but we won't see a similar post-DNC convention surge for Obama either.
The Note's virtual political roundtable:
ABC's RICK KLEIN: It was an Obama win, though that doesn't make it a Romney loss. Last night's debate won't prompt soul-searching or recriminations in the GOP ranks. But it will remind the Democratic base - binders full of voters, perhaps - that they used to really like President Obama, and that it's not too late to start liking him again. Both candidates were focused, combative, and energized, though their targets never seemed like the voters in the hall - undecided, or even uncommitted, voters. In terms of juicing the base, Obama clearly had the most to gain, and he went out and got it. Read more of Rick Klein's post-debate analysis: http://abcn.ws/TagQvg
ABC POLITICAL ANALYST MATTHEW DOWD: "[Obama] left his rope-a-dope strategy back that he had last time and really brought the energy to this thing. I think in the end he won this debate- not by a lot, he won it by points… No knock-out- he did what he needed to do." http://abcn.ws/Xne6t7
ON 'GOOD MORNING AMERICA,' BIDEN, RYAN CLASH ON BENGHAZI. Romney accused President Obama of taking 14 days to call the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya that took the lives of four Americans an act of terror, Obama told him in last night's debate to "get the transcript" of his Rose Garden statement the day after the attack. It was at that moment when moderator Candy Crowley jumped in to say "[Obama] did call it an act of terror." The Romney campaign said Crowley was wrong, and when ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked Vice President Biden about it he accused Romney of playing politics. "Well, the response is it became so clear to the American people how governor Romney and the campaign continue to try to politicize…a tragedy and their strategy seems to be to try make it appear that the president didn't care or didn't know or was lying," Biden said. "The fact of the matter is the president was clear. We are going to get to the bottom of this the whole world will know it."
When Stephanopoulos asked Rep. Paul Ryan if Crowley was wrong, he said she had already backtracked and said Obama's remark "was a passing comment about acts of terror in general, it was not a claim that this was the result of a terrorist attack." "If that was the case, George, then why send [UN Ambassador] Susan Rice out four days later to say this was the result of a spontaneous mob reacting to a YouTube video? Why go on "The View"? Why go on these other shows and not say the same thing? Look, that does not even hold water," Ryan said on "GMA." "What is troubling about this is as we learn more these facts just don't add up. That's why we need to get to the bottom of this, so we can prevent something like this from happening again."
WHAT OBAMA SAID: In his Sept. 12 Rose Garden statement Obama said "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for."
WHAT CANDY CROWLEY SAID: In a post-debate appearance on CNN, last night's debate moderator Candy Crowley weighed in on her fact-checking of Mitt Romney's response to the question about what President Obama said at his Rose Garden speech the day after the Benghazi attack: "He was right in the main, but he picked the wrong word," she said of Romney.
SCENES FROM THE SPIN ROOM
with ABC's Devin Dwyer and Michael Falcone:
Obama campaign adviser David Plouffe: "I think the Libya exchange was a very, very important moment. I think the president looked like a resolute, responsible commander in chief. And Gov. Romney looked like a political candidate playing politics. We think that was an important leadership moment."
Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu: "The president got caught lying tonight."
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina: "There's going to be a bunch of polls good, bunch of polls bad. What matters is 21 days from now getting to 270 electoral votes. And in every single state there's a gender gap because the president is better on these issues for women voters and that's what we'll see on Election Day, I promise."
Romney campaign adviser Ed Gillespie: "The momentum continues for Governor Romney, he clearly laid out a choice for the American people."
DEBATE TRENDS: From ABC's Andrew Springer ( @aspringNY) and our friends at Google and Twitter:
Top rising searches during the debate (8:45pm - 10:45pm EDT)
1. Who is winning the debate
2. Live debate
3. Binders full of women
4. Fact check
Top related searches for "Obama" (8:45pm - 10:45pm EDT)
1. Romney debate
3. Rose Garden Speech Libya
Top related searches for "Romney" (8:45pm - 10:45pm EDT)
1. Obama debate
3. Mitt bio
4. 5 Point Plan
ON TWITTER: Top Tweets Per Minute (TPM) moments:
9:57pm EDT - 109,560 TPM - Immigration/ Romney slip on questioner's name
9:50pm EDT - 108,619 TPM - Obama: "You're the last person to get tough on China"
9:27pm EDT - 107,386 TPM - Romney on tax rates
10:22pm EDT - 106,765 TPM - Romney on gun control
10:12pm EDT - 105,376 TPM - Obama on Libya
9:36pm EDT - 104,704 TPM - Equal pay for women
10:07pm EDT - 102,455 TPM - Obama: "My pension's not as big as yours."
9:21pm EDT - 99,242 TPM - Candidates argue over oil questions
9:12pm EDT - 68,567 TPM - Crowley halts Romney's rebuttal
with Elizabeth Hartfield ( @LizHartfield)
ABC NEWS FACT-CHECKS THE SECOND PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE. Did Obama double the deficit? What's the real unemployment rate? Did Obama follow Romney's advice and take Detroit bankrupt? ABC's fact-check desk, headed up by senior political correspondent Jonathan Karl and assisted by ABC News reporters and researchers in Washington and New York, took a look at these claims and many more made by the two candidates in the debate. Fact or fiction? Find out: http://abcn.ws/OFWEi5
ELECTION 2012: NO FUN FOR THE MIDDLE. Memo to presidential candidates: For most people in the middle of American politics, the 2012 election is a turn-off. The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that 62 percent of independents see the presidential election unfavorably, as do 54 percent of self-identified political moderates and "somewhat" conservatives alike. Just 28 percent of independents - who tend to be less engaged in politics than partisans - see the election favorably. And independents see the battle for the White House "strongly" negatively rather than strongly positively by a wide 3-1 margin. Similarly, just 35 percent of moderates see the election favorably, as do 41 percent of "somewhat" conservatives. http://abcn.ws/QqjybG
SPINNERS & WINNERS: WASTEFUL SPENDING OF YOUR TAX DOLLARS. In the latest episode of his ABC/Yahoo! Power Players series "Spinners & Winners" ABC's Jonathan Karl takes a look at government waste- and finds some shocking numbers. A new report from Senator Tom Coburn's office highlights dozens of examples of government waste in 2012. Included for the first time on this list: Congress. The very people looking into government waste find they themselves are wasteful. Coburn's report estimates $132 million of taxpayers' money was wasted on "the most unproductive and unpopular Congress in modern history." "The waste is unbelievable," says Coburn. "We're bankrupt, this country is bankrupt, and people just don't want to admit it." WATCH: http://yhoo.it/T06XtI
PSYCHOANALYZING THE CANDIDATES: DO OBAMA'S AND ROMNEY'S PAST PROVIDE INSIGHT INTO DEBATE PERFORMANCE? A conversation with Dr. Justin Frank about two presidential hopefuls' debate performances doesn't offer the usual political analysis reports ABC's Jake Tapper. Frank analyzed the first debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney not just as a voter - he is a liberal Obama supporter, it should be noted - but as a psychoanalyst. Frank is both the author of "Bush on the Couch" and "Obama on the Couch," and a Freudian, which means he is interested in how people got to be the way they are, judging by unconscious factors in their childhood. In his debate analysis of Obama and Romney, Frank notes the big difference between the two men is their fathers. Romney had a strong father, while Obama's father was never part of his family. Romney also had five sons, which Frank said means he has to be tough. http://abcn.ws/R3tUQh
DEBATE REACTION: UNDECIDED 'WALMART MOMS' WEIGH IN. Undecided "Walmart moms" in Milwaukee, Wis., gave the presidential debate win to President Obama by a narrow margin - but they're not sold yet, reports ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield. In a bipartisan focus group conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis and sponsored by Walmart, a group of undecided female voters were asked to vote for who they thought won the second presidential debate. Five women in the group said Obama, three said Mitt Romney, and two said they thought it was tie. The words associated with Obama's performance were a mix of positive and negative - they ranged from unprepared and stumbling, to specific, impressive and prepared. The same was true for Romney, as far as the mixed feelings. Some women said they saw him as confident, others described him as arrogant and superior. There was a tepid agreement that Obama seemed more genuine than Romney. http://abcn.ws/R3JQ54
INTERNET TAKES OFF WITH ROMNEY'S 'BINDERS FULL OF WOMEN.' Despite all the fireworks over taxes, oil and Libya, the most buzz-worthy social media moment of Tuesday night's presidential debate was Republican nominee Mitt Romney's comment about "binders full of women," reports ABC's Abby Phillip. The inadvertently funny comment came in response to a question about pay equity for women from a member of the audience of the debate between Romney and President Obama at Hofstra University. Romney was explaining that as the governor of Massachusetts searching for qualified women to fill cabinet posts, women's groups brought him "binders full of women" who were good candidates. http://abcn.ws/OGwhsn
OBAMA CALLS FOR RENEWAL OF ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports, President Obama Tuesday night said he's interested in seeing an assault weapons ban reintroduced, breaking his silence on the legislation, which has persisted in spite of at least five mass shootings during his term. In August, after the Sikh Temple shooting, Jay Carney said, "He does support renewing the assault weapons ban." But Tuesday night is the first time during his first term that the sentiment has come from the president's mouth. http://abcn.ws/QSSTn8
INSTANT REACTION POLLS SHOW NARROW OBAMA ADVANTAGE IN SECOND DEBATE. The New York Times' Nate Silver reports: "Scientific polls conducted after Tuesday night's presidential debate in New York give a modest edge to President Obama. A CBS News/Knowledge networks poll of undecided voters who watched the debate found 37 percent giving an advantage to Mr. Obama, 30 percent favoring Mitt Romney and 33 percent calling the debate a tie. That represents a narrower lead for Mr. Obama than Mr. Romney had after the first debate in Denver, when a similar poll gave Mr. Romney a 46-22 edge. A CNN poll of registered voters who watched the debate - not just undecided voters, as in the CBS News survey - also gave the debate to Mr. Obama by a seven-point margin, 46 percent to 39 percent. How much will the debate move the head-to-head polls between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama? Actually, the instant-reaction polls may not be very much help in answering that question." http://nyti.ms/T02dbL
GREEN PARTY CANDIDATES ARRESTED. Green Party candidate Jill Stein and her vice presidential running mate Cheri Honkala were arrested at the Hofstra University debate site today as they protested their exclusion from the second presidential debate reports ABC's Abby Phillip. Stein and Honkala were jailed for disorderly conduct around 3 p.m. when they were blocked by police officers as they attempted to enter the debate hall, according to Stein's campaign manager Ben Manski. Manski said that it was unclear when they would be released, but they could remain jailed until midnight. The Nassau County Police Department said that it was unclear when Stein and Honkala might be released. http://abcn.ws/Tu3OTt
SAY CHEESE! 6 POLITICAL PHOTO OPS THAT FAILED. Paul Ryan and his family posed for pictures while cleaning pots and pans at a soup kitchen Saturday, never knowing the appearance would lead to questions from the press. But Ryan's failed photo op pales in comparison with some political bloopers of the past. ABC's Sarah Parnass takes a look back at some memorable photo-ops- including whose campaign was steamrolled by a photo shoot with a tank, how Newt Gingrich took the etch-a-sketch metaphor to another level and what John Kerry was doing in full-body scrubs. http://abcn.ws/SZT1nW
@markknoller : Mrs Obama didn't return to the WH with the pres last night. She remained in NY where she's doing "LIVE with Kelly and Michael" today.
@ChadPergram : Latest Ryan for CONGRESS ad: It is wrong to leave our children a crushing burden of debt and a diminished future.
with ABC's Josh Haskell ( @HaskellBuzz)
-President Obama is speaking to supporters in Mount Vernon, Iowa and Athens, Ohio a day after the second Presidential Debate. First Lady Michelle Obama will also be on the trail in New York State delivering remarks in Woodbury.
-Mitt Romney brings his message to Chesapeake, Virginia with a rally at Tidewater Community College. In the evening, Romney will attend a rally at Ida Lee Park in Leesburg, VA. Romney surrogates will be out in force Wednesday including Tagg Romney, Craig Romney, and Speaker of the House John Boehner.
-Vice President Biden will address voters at an afternoon event in Greeley, CO at Island Grove Regional Park. In the evening, Biden is in Reno, Nevada for an event at The Reno Ballroom.
-Paul Ryan is in Berea, OH attending a victory rally with Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Check out The Note's Futures Calendar : http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV