President Barack Obama clearly showed up for Tuesday night's second presidential debate and Mitt Romney stood toe to toe with the president in such critical issues as the violence in the Middle East and energy policy. But determining the winner has sparked new debate among supporters of each candidate.
A CBS instant poll taken immediately after the debate showed Obama winning with 37 percent and 30 percent claiming Romney won. Another 33 percent called the face-off a tie.
Interestingly, 65 percent of those surveyed in the same poll thought Romney could do a better job handling the economy and taxes.
The first debate between the two contenders turned into a rout by Romney as Obama appeared irritated and lethargic during most of the contest. Even Obama supporters such as MSNBC's Chris Matthews went ballistic after the first debate, lamenting over President Obama's lackluster performance. However, Matthews' reaction after the second debate was much different.
"The president won on the economy right up front," said Matthews immediately after the debate. "The oil thing was too complicated. He won on taxes, he won on Lilly Ledbetter clearly, he won with that African-American guy, who's really been disappointed, he won with that guy, he won clearly on immigration and he clearly won with a question at the end where he took the foolish decision, and of course on Benghazi, that foolish decision by his opponent to raise the issue of 47 percent – by saying 100 percent. He stuck his chin out and Obama – he punched him hard."
Another ardent supporter, Ezra Klein of The Washington Post, gave Romney the overwhelming advantage in the first debate but now seems clearly impressed with Obama. "Romney won the first debate by a larger margin than I expected. Obama won the second debate by a larger margin that I expected," he wrote in a Twitter post Tuesday night.
Nonetheless, Romney had his own supporters weighing in on the contest, saying he more than held his own against an incumbent who was going to show more aggression and determination in order to make up for lagging poll numbers.
"Romney not taking any guff. Looking good," tweeted Bernard Goldberg. "Throwing Obama's dismal economic record at the pres."
CNN's David Gergen tweeted, "I think that Mitt Romney has had two very good debates back to back. I think a solid performance tonight, and I think overall, he looked like he could be president more than two weeks ago."
David Harsanyi of Human Events maintained that Romney performed well and won points taking on Obama for the nation's high unemployment.
"Romney's most effective moment came when he laid out the administration's unmet promises. 'What you're seeing in this country is 23 million people struggling to find a job. The president's policies have been exercised over the last four years and they haven't put Americans back to work,'" wrote Harsanyi.
"Romney pointed out that growth had slowed year to year and the unemployment numbers looked better than reality as workers have fled the labor market – factors that voters might not understand when reading headlines."
Although everyone agrees that President Obama's second performance was much improved compared to the first debate, some think it's a little too late for the president to roll over Romney in the remaining 20 days of the campaign.
"That Obama was stronger last night doesn't mitigate the dire effects of the first nationally televised clash with Romney on Oct. 3," wrote Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard. "It's the first debate that matters most. It usually has the biggest audience. It sets the stage for the subsequent debates and indeed for the rest of the campaign. And in that debate, the president was a zombie. That's hard to overcome."
Still others called the second debate a tie. "I think it's a split decision," Democratic strategist Joe Trippi, a Fox News contributor, said after Tuesday's town hall-style debate at Hofstra University.
Romney and Obama will square off in the third and final debate on Monday, Oct. 22, at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. Bob Schieffer of CBS will act as the moderator.