(Photo: Reuters/Lucas Jackson)
President Barack Obama showed more punch in his second debate against Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Making up for his lackluster performance in the first debate, he likely re-energized the supporters who worried that another poor debate would end his chances of getting re-elected.
Romney delivered an assault on Obama's record with a litany of statistics. He also complained about following the rules of the debate while also breaking the rule about asking the other candidate questions.
Undecided voters asked the questions in the town hall style debate moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley. Rather than stand behind a podium the whole time, the candidates were able to walk around. At times, both candidates got into a heated back and forth, complete with finger pointing and accusations that the other candidate was not telling the truth.
One of those exchanges was on energy policy and gas prices. President Obama cut drilling permits and licenses on federal land, Romney argued.
"Not true," Obama said.
"How much did you cut them by, then?" Romney asked.
Obama started talking about increased oil production, but Romney pressed him to answer the question about the number of federal land permits. Obama then explained that permits that were not being used were done away with and are now being leased again. Romney said that oil production on government land is down 14 percent while Obama insisted it has not.
As in the first debate, Obama argued that Romney wants to cut taxes for the rich while Romney insisted that is not his plan.
"I'm not looking to cut taxes for wealthy people. I am looking to cut taxes for middle-income people," Romney said.
Romney explained that he wants to lower rates while also eliminating exemptions and deductions "particularly for people at the high end" of the income scale.
When asked which deductions and exemptions he would like to eliminate, he answered, "one way of doing that would be say everybody gets – I'll pick a number – $25,000 of deductions and credits, and you can decide which ones to use. Your home mortgage interest deduction, charity, child tax credit, and so forth, you can use those as part of filling that bucket, if you will, of deductions."
"We haven't heard from the governor any specifics beyond Big Bird and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood in terms of how he pays for that," Obama countered.
When asked how he would be different than President George W. Bush, Romney said he would seek to make North America energy secure rather than rely on "Arabs or the Venezuelans," he would "crack down on China" and expand trade in Latin America, and "get us to a balanced budget."
In his rebuttal, Obama agreed that there were some areas where Romney is different than Bush and noted that Bush did not "propose turning Medicare into a voucher" and "embraced comprehensive immigration reform."
When asked "What have you done or accomplished to earn my vote?" Obama talked about cutting middle class taxes, ending the war in Iraq, killing Osama bin Laden, passing the Affordable Care Act, and passing Wall Street reforms.
"I think you know better. I think you know that these last four years haven't been so good as the president just described and that you don't feel like you're confident that the next four years are going to be much better either," Romney said.
He then discussed unemployment, the economy, poverty and food stamps.
"The president has tried, but his policies haven't worked. He's great as a ... speaker and describing his plans and his vision. That's wonderful, except we have a record to look at," Romney concluded.
One questioner asked Obama about the news that the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Syria was denied enhanced security. Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in an attack there on Sept. 11.
"Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?" the questioner asked.
Obama did not directly answer the question but said that after the attack he called his national security team and gave them three instructions: "beef up security and procedures," "investigate exactly what happened," and "find out who did this" and "hunt them down."
In his rebuttal, Romney criticized the president for first saying the attack was a spontaneous demonstration rather than a terrorist attack, and for going to a political fundraiser the day after the attack.
"The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people in the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror and I also said that we're going to hunt down those who committed this crime," Obama said.
"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?" Romney asked Obama.
While Romney said it took 14 days before Obama called the attack an "act of terror," Crowley sought to clarify.
"He did call it an act of terror. It did as well take ... two weeks or so for the whole idea there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that," Crowley said.
The next debate will take place Monday, Oct. 22, and focus on foreign policy.