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Obama Comes Out Swinging in 2nd Debate; Candy Crowley Fact-Checks Romney

In a contentious debate, Obama shamed Romney on Libya, poked at his pension -- and threw the 47 percent in Mitt's face.

Photo Credit: CNN


This article has been corrected.

If President Barack Obama, in his first debate with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney earlier this month, left his supporters asking WTF at the president’s lackluster performance, Tuesday night’s performance should find them taking heart. In a contentious town-hall style debate at Hofstra University in New York, Obama came out ready to take on his opponent with a battery of barbs and facts, and some sly strategy.

Romney at times seemed thrown by the president’s deftness, and found himself brought up short when moderator Candy Crowley of CNN fact-checked a Romney claim about Obama's response to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya and found it to be, well, false. Neither man came off as particularly likeable, but Romney strayed into bully territory several times when he tried to play Crowley the same way he did PBS’s Jim Lehrer in the first debate -- by talking after time was called. Only with Crowley, the trick didn’t work.

During an exchange about energy policy, the two candidates walked toward each other, and then circled around the floor, looking like two caged animals stalking each other for a fight. Unlike the earlier debate in Denver, Obama this time used his famed detachment to bait Romney into badgering him, as when Romney tried to nail Obama for allegedly having offshore investments in his pension fund.

"Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?" Romney asked.

"You know, I don't look at my pension," Obama replied. "It's not as big as yours so it doesn't take as long."

When Romney touted his "five-point" jobs plan*, Obama called it a "one-point plan." He continued: "And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules.”

The two men sparred over immigration, with Romney blaming Obama for not having introduced comprehensive immigration reform, and Obama reminding the audience of Romney's assertion during the Republican presidential primary debates that the best way to deal with undocumented immigrants is essentially to make life so difficult for them that they "self-deport." Obama also tied Romney to the draconian Arizona anti-immigrant law, whose author, Obama said, was a top Romney adviser. "If we’re going to go after folks who are here illegally, we should do it smartly and go after folks who are criminals, gang-bangers, people who are hurting the community,” Obama said.

The gang-banger reference soon went viral on Twitter.

And in one spectacular verbal gaffe, Romney served up fodder for a social media meme that will likely dog him until election day: “binders full of women.”

Women unbound

The topic was equal pay for women, and in her question, Katherine Fenton, a young woman drawn from among the purportedly undecided voters who filled the hall cited a familiar figure: that women earn 72 cents for every dollar earned by a man performing the same work.

Obama, answering first, cited his support for the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which lifted the statute of limitations for women who sought a legal remedy for gender-based pay discrimination. Romney punted on the question, and pivoted to his claim of having appointed a record number of women to high-level and cabinet posts during his tenure as governor of Massachusetts. “[W]e took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet,” Romney said. “ I went to a number of women's groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks?’ And they brought us whole binders full of women.”

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