Recap: 2nd Presidential Debate – Obama Punches Back!

“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.

 Folks on Social Security who have worked all their lives. Veterans who have 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 tax, but don’t make enough income.” – President Obama, 10/16/2012


Last night President Barack Obama and Governor Willard “Mitt” Romney faced off in the second of three debates in what ended up being one of the most contentious presidential debates in history. Obama, coming off a lackluster debate performance two weeks ago, conceded no ground Romney, who remained aggressive, but spent most of the night of the defensive. It will take a week for us to determine if this debate has a major impact on the polls, but we can assess the winners and losers.


President Obama

President Obama came into last night’s debate with all the pressure. Obama’s poll numbers have been on a downwards trend since his last debate performance allowing Romney to tie or surpass him in state and national polls. Obama had to blunt Romney’s momentum while gaining some of his fight back last night, and he was successful. Here are the results of the instant polls taking after the debate:

CBS: Obama 37-30%; CNN: Obama 46-39%; Lake Research(D)/battlegrounds:  Obama 53-38%

Obama came out on the offensively and stayed there all night. He described Romney’s tax plan as “sketchy”, tied him to his past negative statements on immigration and domestic energy policy, displayed a sharp contrast on women issues, and completely dressed Romney down on his criticism of the Benghazi consulate attack. In their last debate Obama allowed Romney to distort his record and bully him, Obama was having none of it last night. Obama accomplished what he needed to do last night. His base is re-energized and he made a sharp contrast between him and Romney. Obama needed to win last night and he did.

Town Hall Format

This was the 20th year anniversary of the town hall format (the first one was in 1992 between Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Ross Perot) and this was the most electric one yet. The candidates were asked questions that were largely absent in the other debate. The questions covered women, immigration, national security, and educational issues. While the candidates largely stayed on their talking points, it was refreshing to see “undecided” voters ask the questions.

Candy Crowley

Compared to Jim Lehrer who moderated the first presidential debate, Crowley was great. Both candidates tried to railroad her but she didn’t let them. She allowed them to engage one another while adding effective follow-up questions. It was Crowley with some quick fact-checking, on Romney’s Benghazi miss-statement, that helped sway the debate to Obama.


After the first debate Democrats were as nervous as a hooker in church, second guessing the president, and feeling defeated. Now after Obama’s strong performance Democrats are one again excited and engaged which is critical considering there is only two and a half weeks left until Election Day.


7 million tweets were sent during last night’s debate.



If Romney would have had a knock out win last night like he had two weeks ago he would be in a stronger position today than he is now. Romney is still in a better place than he was before the first debate and he had a solid performance last night, especially when he criticized Obama’s record on the economy, but Romney had a few missteps last night. Romney didn’t give a solid answer when asked about fair pay for women, he fumbled the immigration question, and his major stumble, from last night, was when his falsely attacked the president over the Benghazi consulate attack, Romney never recovered from that error.  He often came off as disrespectful and condescending to the President throughout the night. Romney’s performance was similar to the one he gave two weeks ago; the major difference is Obama came ready to fight.


The immediate reaction by Republicans was to attack the moderator, accusing her of bias. In politics if you’re explaining and complaining you’re losing! The Republicans would have been better served sticking to their talking points on the economy instead of trashing the referee.

“Undecided Voters”

I simply do not believe this group exists, the polling shows us that most Americans have made up their mind on who they are voting for. If you are a self-described undecided voter I do not know what type of information you are waiting on to make a decision, but you definitely didn’t get any concrete policy plans last night


So did last night’s debate change the trajectory of the race? Depends on what you believe happened after the first debate. If you believe voters warmed up to Romney and is giving him a second look then the dynamics of race won’t change, but if you believe Obama poll numbers fell because of the lack of enthusiasm displayed by his supporters after the first debate then you should expect an Obama revival in the polls. I think this will remain a horse race that won’t be fully decided until Election Day.


2 thoughts on “Recap: 2nd Presidential Debate – Obama Punches Back!

  1. Great article – I picked up on most of that whilst watching; I was madly tweeting to friends about Romney’s #bindersfullofwomen before briefly wondering what Bill Clinton’s binder would look like..

    I think that really it was a make-or-break moment for Obama; he had to prove that he had the fight left in him to go toe-to-toe with Romney on the issues. In style and substance, Obama put Romney firmly in his place and has probably succeeded in re-energising both his base and independent voters to turn out in November to return him to the White House.

    Check out my thoughts on the debate at

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