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Face to face: Obama, Romney in crackling debate

By David Espo and Steve Peoples

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 05:32 p.m. HST, Oct 16, 2012

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. >> An aggressive President Barack Obama accused challenger Mitt Romney of favoring a "one-point plan" to help the rich in America and playing politics with the recent deadly terrorist attack in Libya in a debate crackling with energy and emotion just three weeks before the election.

Romney pushed back hard, saying the middle class "has been crushed over the last four years," that 23 million Americans are struggling to find work and that the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya was part of an unraveling of the administration's foreign policy.

The president was feistier from the outset today than he had been in their initial encounter two weeks ago, when he turned in a listless performance that sent shudders through his supporters and helped fuel a rise by Romney in opinion polls nationally and in some battleground states.

Obama and Romney disagreed, forcefully and repeatedly — about taxes, measures to reduce the deficit, energy, pay equity for women and health care as well as foreign policy across 90 minutes of a town-hall style debate.

Immigration prompted yet another clash, Romney saying Obama had failed to pursue the comprehensive legislation he promised at the dawn of his administration, and the president saying Republican obstinacy made a deal impossible.

Romney gave as good as he got.

"You'll get your chance in a moment. I'm still speaking," the former Massachusetts governor said at one point while Obama was mid-sentence, drawing a gasp from the audience. He said the president's policies had failed to jumpstart the economy and had cramped energy production.

The open-stage format left the two men free to stroll freely across a red-carpeted stage, and they did. Their clashes crackled with energy and tension, and the crowd watched raptly as the two sparred while struggling to appear calm and affable before a national television audience.

While most of the debate was focused on policy differences, there was one more-personal moment, when Obama said Romney had investments in China.

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

"You know, I don't look at my pension. It's not as big as yours," shot back Obama to his wealthier rival.

Under the format agreed to in advance, members of an audience of 82 uncommitted voters posed questions to the president and his challenger.

Nearly all of them concerned domestic policy until one raised the subject of the recent death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya in a terrorist attack at an American post in Benghazi. Romney said it took Obama a long time to admit the episode had been a terrorist attack, but Obama said he had said so the day after in an appearance in the Rose Garden outside the White House.

When moderator Candy Crowley of CNN said the president had in fact done so, Obama, prompted, "Say that a little louder, Candy."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has taken responsibility for the death of Ambassador L. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, but Obama said bluntly, "I'm the president, and I'm always responsible."

Romney said it was "troubling" that Obama continued with a campaign event in Las Vegas on the day after the attack in Libya, an event the Republican said had "symbolic significance and perhaps even material significance."

Obama seemed to bristle. He said it was offensive for anyone to allege that he or anyone in his administration had used the incident for political purposes. "That's not what I do."

One intense exchange focused on competing claims about whether energy production is increasing or slowing. Obama accused Romney of misrepresenting what has happened — a theme he returned to time and again. Romney strode across the stage to confront Obama face to face, just feet from the audience.

Both men pledged a better economic future to a young man who asked the first question, a member of a pre-selected audience of 82 uncommitted voters.

Then the president's determination to show a more aggressive side became evident.

Rebutting his rival's claim to a five-point plan to create 12 million jobs, Obama said, "Gov. Romney says he's got a five-point plan. Gov. Romney doesn't have a five-point plan. He has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules."

"That's been his philosophy in the private sector," Obama said of his rival. "That's been his philosophy as governor. That's been his philosophy as a presidential candidate. You can make a lot of money and pay lower tax rates than somebody who makes a lot less."

"You can ship jobs overseas and get tax breaks for it. You can invest in a country, bankrupt it, lay off the workers, strip away their pensions and you still make money. That's exactly the philosophy that we've seen in place for the last decade," the president said in a scorching summation.

Unable to respond at length because of the debate's rules, Romney said the accusations were "way off the mark."

But moments later, he reminded the national television audience of the nation's painfully slow recovery from the worst recession in decades.

There are "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 America back to work," he said. "We have fewer people working today than when he took office."

Economic growth has been slow throughout Obama's term in office, and unemployment only recently dipped below 8 percent for the first time since he moved into the White House. Romney noted that if out-of-work Americans who no longer look for jobs were counted, the unemployment rate would be 10.7 percent.

Both men had rehearsed extensively for the encounter, a turnabout for Obama.

"I had a bad night," the president conceded, days after he and Romney shared a stage for the first time, in Denver. His aides made it known he didn't intend to be as deferential to his challenger this time, and the presidential party decamped for a resort in Williamsburg, Va., for rehearsals that consumed the better part of three days.

Romney rehearsed in Massachusetts and again after arriving on Long Island on debate day, with less to make up for.

Asked by one member of the audience how he would differ from former President George W. Bush, the last Republican to hold the office, Romney said, "We are different people and these are different times."

He said he would attempt to balance the budget, something Bush was unsuccessful in doing, get tougher on China and work more aggressively to expand trade.

Obama jumped in with his own predictions — not nearly as favorable to the man a few feet away on stage. He said the former president didn't attempt to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood or turn Medicare into a voucher system.

Though the questions were from undecided voters inside the hall — in a deeply Democratic state — the audience that mattered most watched on television and was counted in the tens of millions. Crucially important: viewers in the nine battlegrounds where the race is likely to be settled.

The final debate, next Monday in Florida, will be devoted to foreign policy.

Opinion polls made the race a close one, with Obama leading in some national surveys and Romney in others. Despite the Republican's clear gains in surveys in recent days, the president led in several polls of Wisconsin and Ohio, two key Midwestern battlegrounds where Romney and running mate Paul Ryan are campaigning heavily.

Barring a last-minute shift in the campaign, Obama is on course to win states and the District of Columbia that account for 237 of the 270 electoral votes needed for victory. The same is true for Romney in states with 191 electoral votes.

The remaining 110 electoral votes are divided among the hotly contested battleground states of Florida (29), North Carolina (15), Virginia (13) New Hampshire (4), Iowa (6), Colorado (9), Nevada (6), Ohio (18) and Wisconsin (10).

Obama has campaigned in the past several days by accusing Romney of running away from some of the conservative positions he took for tax cuts and against abortion earlier in the year when he was trying to win the Republican nomination.

"Maybe you're wondering what to believe about Mitt Romney," says one ad, designed to remind voters of the Republican's strong opposition to abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at stake.

Romney countered by stressing both in person and through his television advertising the slow pace of the economic recovery, which has left growth sluggish and unemployment high throughout Obama's term. Joblessness recently declined to 7.8 percent, dropping below 8 percent for the first time since the president took office.


Associated Press writers Julie Pace in New York, Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Ohio, and Matthew Lee in Lima, Peru, contributed to this story. Espo reported from Washington.

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tiki886 wrote:
@3:37 pm Obama has thrown Bank of Hawaii under the bus.
on October 16,2012 | 03:39PM
8082062424 wrote:
guess he could not blame it on Hillary Rodham Clinton . she the one he throws under the bus all the time
on October 16,2012 | 04:03PM
allie wrote:
Clinton made a mistake and owned up to it. Lingle was a disaster and still claims she is a princess
on October 16,2012 | 04:13PM
8082062424 wrote:
I would not just call it a mistake what he did it was way bigger then that. what dose bill have to do with this? lingle huge mistake was the supper ferry same thing going on now with rail..
on October 16,2012 | 04:36PM
hapaguy wrote:
808: Bill doesnt have anything to do with what Allie was talking about. I believe Allie was referring to Sec of State Clinton taking responsibility for the Benghazi security failure...i know its hard for you right wing trolls , but try to follow along....
on October 16,2012 | 07:55PM
nitpikker wrote:
yah. dingle doesnt admit to her failures!!
on October 16,2012 | 04:51PM
Hullstown wrote:
How many Americans did Lingle get killed with her "mistakes"? If Mrs. Clinton *truly* takes responsibility for the failure in Libya, she should resign, or be fired by the Commander in Chief. *That* is leadership.
on October 16,2012 | 06:27PM
hapaguy wrote:
Using that logic George W. Bush should have resigned the day after 9/11 then. Would't you agree?
on October 16,2012 | 07:10PM
tiki886 wrote:
"People died, so Obama lied!"
on October 16,2012 | 09:55PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
tiki886: sometimes you and I disagree and we mix it up.... but you took the words out of mouth on this one. LOL. That's exactly what I said to wifey when the old glass ceiling argument came up.
on October 16,2012 | 05:06PM
tiki886 wrote:
I said to myself, "Owee".
on October 16,2012 | 10:11PM
Pocho wrote:
Even the Moderator got into it back President Barrack Obama. Geez
on October 16,2012 | 06:06PM
Pocho wrote:
2 against one is not fair.
on October 16,2012 | 06:12PM
false wrote:
Romney is such a jerk.
on October 16,2012 | 04:19PM
tiki886 wrote:
Obama's final statement (paraphrased): "I believe in Capitalism but I also believe in Communism".
on October 16,2012 | 04:42PM
8082062424 wrote:
Im ashamed to say i voted for him. not this time
on October 16,2012 | 04:49PM
niimi wrote:
I understand. As the saying goes, the first time--shame on you, the second time, shame on me. I don't plan to have shame on me this time.
on October 16,2012 | 04:57PM
hapaguy wrote:
The saying is: "Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me." Well at least you got closer than "W" did.....
on October 16,2012 | 07:14PM
312guy wrote:
im not ashamed i voted obama & im voting obama
on October 16,2012 | 09:45PM
tiki886 wrote:
"People died, so Obama lied!"
on October 16,2012 | 09:52PM
Jonas wrote:
Hmmm what about Bush's critical blunder on "WMD's" in Iraq? How many of our servicemen have died due to his critical tactical error?
on October 16,2012 | 10:28PM
inverse wrote:
Bush is not running for president again.
on October 17,2012 | 02:42AM
niimi wrote:
President Obama did better being more aggressive; however, he was vulnerable on his record and Governor Romney really came at him hard. The moderator was fair. The questions from the independent voters were very interesting and compelling, making both candidates think. I can't wait for the 3rd Presidential debate which will cover foreign policy. I score this debate in favor of Governor Romney. If I were to score it on a 10-point must system, Romney 10, Obama 8.
on October 16,2012 | 04:56PM
Pocho wrote:
Do you all know Chicago's murder rate? It's sickening, they all turn a blind eye to it.
on October 16,2012 | 06:37PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
"My hometown Chicago"

And some of you silly ones think he is a local boy.

on October 16,2012 | 05:04PM
Hullstown wrote:
Maneki, you are *absolutely* right. Many of my friends claim they will vote for Mr. Obama because he is a "local boy" and I try to explain to them that he identifies with Chicago far more. Great point.
on October 16,2012 | 06:30PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
It ois a very common theme - the "he is fom here and one of us so he will care about Hawaii" theme. That's ridiculous. Besides claiming Chicago as home, Obama has repeatedly demonstrated that Hawaii is is simply a vacation destination for him - hit Alan Wong's for a very expensive dinner, a taste of shave ice in Kailua and then zoom - back to Chicago. Tonight we saw him trash Bank of Hawaii as an employer that is anti-women (a surprise to me!). But so many persist in the myth. If you are an Obama supporter, good on you, but at least be realistic and honest and recognize hew doesn't much like Hawaii except as a get a away at tax payer expense.
on October 16,2012 | 06:44PM
Pocho wrote:
President Obama visits Hawaii for some Vacation time. Why should he and his family vacation in his Murderous home town of Chicago? Get a grip people not nice roaming the streets with gangsters
on October 16,2012 | 06:46PM
inverse wrote:
Obama has an army of secret service men/women to protect him and his family so he if he wants to visit his HOMETOWN of Chicago to vacation, he can do that without a single worry in the world.
on October 17,2012 | 02:45AM
312guy wrote:
that's where his residence is but his roots are here in hawaii
on October 16,2012 | 09:40PM
inverse wrote:
The best thing Obama's Caucasian grandmother did for Obama who was mixed ethnicity but looked more African American was send him to PRIVATE school Pun ahou. Had Obama attended public school in Hawaii he would have NEVER become president of the US. Private schools don't have to worry about tenured teachers who can never be fired nor do schools like Pun ahou or Iolani tolerate bullying in school. Of course no private school can prevent all bullying, as kids might get away with subtle bullying, but you can easily survive and thrive with subtle bullying.
on October 17,2012 | 03:04AM
st1d wrote:
obama practically shouted throughout the entire debate. it's as if he thinks we failed to understand his policies because we couldn't hear him during the last four years.

sadly he claimed the glory for killing bin laden but failed to take credit for abandoning doctor shakil afridi, the real hero in that episode, who led the americans to bin laden's hideout. dr afridi is now imprisoned in pakistan for his efforts, completely forgotten and ignored by the obama administration.

on October 16,2012 | 05:09PM
hapaguy wrote:
Obama promised in 2008 to kill Bin Laden and he did it. The last President said "I don't know where he is. I really just don’t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you".....
on October 16,2012 | 07:22PM
hawaiikone wrote:
on October 16,2012 | 09:00PM
st1d wrote:
obama sacrificed dr. afridi in the process.

"Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." Friedrich Nietzsche

on October 16,2012 | 09:52PM
tiki886 wrote:
What I find extremely difficult to understand is how anyone can be "undecided" at this point in time. The 80 something people who were chosen to ask questions and be in attendance at this Town Hall debate must be the most confused, wishy washy individuals on the planet and it is scary that the election may be decided by a small population of "low information" undecided people.
on October 16,2012 | 05:18PM
Jonas wrote:
That's exactly what a friend and I were discussing after the debate. I don't understand how people can still be undecided when we have 2 candidates who are almost completely polar opposites. I was not impressed with the audience, who seemed - at best - a little "confused."
on October 16,2012 | 10:31PM
inverse wrote:
That is the scam, they are NOT undecided, however if they claim they are undecided, it makes them part of the IMPORTANT group such as being invited to these types of debates, focus groups,etc. Pollsters, politicians, media and others take an interest in them and give them all of the attention, etc.
on October 17,2012 | 03:12AM
Pacej001 wrote:
I never thought I'd see an American President look the pubic in the eye and lie more blatantly than did Bill Clinton regarding Lewinsky affair, but I was wrong. Tonight, President Obama did so in his indisputably misleading statements about his actions following the murder of the US ambassador to Libya by an Al Qaeda terrorist group. Worse still, he was aided by the equally misleading statement in his support by the debate moderator. Will the vapid, spineless mainstream media let him get away with it? Probably. We deserve much, much better than this.
on October 16,2012 | 05:47PM
hapaguy wrote:
Pace you have the worst case of selective memory loss that I have ever witnessed. George W. Bush lied us into a totally unnecessary war with Iraq that cost over 4,400 American lives and over 33,000 wounded. He also lied when he claimed he had no prior warning that Osama Bin Laden's Al Queda network was planning attacks on US soil when in fact his President's Daily Brief dated August 6, 2001, a full 36 days prior to the attack on 9/11, warned him about it. What was the title of that daily brief you might ask: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.”
on October 16,2012 | 07:39PM
barnaclebill wrote:
and the "fact checkers" agree that Obama told the truth and called it a terrorist attack in the Rose Garden the next morning. The Moderator was just pointing out the facts, the truth. Not a lie. Get it?? Not misleading statements by the Moderator, just telling the truth, like Obama.
on October 16,2012 | 08:51PM
hawaiikone wrote:
Selective fact checker reading, a trait of Obama supporters...
on October 16,2012 | 09:02PM
desertpup wrote:
actually, candy crowley herself came out shortly after the debate and admitted that romney was correct in his statement that obama did NOT refer to the benghazi incident as an "act of terror." it is interesting that this administration and its supporters are so comfortable defending their actions (or inactions) based on their reported reliance on the intelligence that was given to them in their handling of benghazi. yet, they don't value the intelligence reports relied upon by the bush administration (and the congress who approved, including hillary clinton and joe biden) in alliance with nations around the world to pursue threats that iraq may have WMD. the truth is the truth, and it should not be twisted and used selectively to simply further one's propaganda. if you are against war, then be against it regardless of whether or not there is a republican or a democrat in the white house. it's great that osama bin laden is dead, but what about that pakistani doctor who was critical in helping us locate osama bid laden who currently sits in a pakistani prison (subjected to god knows what!) because this administration outed him while flaunting bin laden's death? yes, mr. president, i see how "offensive" it is to you to even think about politicizing such tragedies...
on October 16,2012 | 09:20PM
DowntownGreen wrote:
No, she didn't. And he did call it an act of terror. So if you lie in your first sentence, why should anyone believe anything else you say?
on October 16,2012 | 09:31PM
Pacej001 wrote:
Nice try, but you may want to read the text of Obama's Rose Garden statement. His reference to terrorism was oblique at best. What wasn't oblique was Obama's insistence, in that same speech, that the attack was motivated by the offensive YouTube documentary. He stuck to that bogus story for almost two weeks and emphasized that theme in his UN speech when, we know now via sworn testimony, that there was ample evidence that the attack was carried out by an Al Qaeda splinter group, that we had intelligence to that fact almost immediately. All of this information is available to the press and the public, but will the "press" pursue it, ask the reasonable questions regarding the administrations competency. After all, 9/11 is a fairly prominent date, since 2001 we've reoriented our entire intelligence apparatus to thwart just the sort of thing that happened in Bengazi. Why didn't it work? Why has the administration bungled embassy security, and why, for so long, have they stuck to a story that only made sense in terms of protecting Mr. Obama's reelection prospects?
on October 16,2012 | 10:47PM
Jonas wrote:
Where did you get this information? It's not come out as far as I can tell.
on October 16,2012 | 10:35PM
Anonymous wrote:
CNN anchor and debate moderator Candy Crowley joined CNN’s panel after the debate to discuss a moment where she corrected Mitt Romney after he claimed that President Barack Obama had refused to characterize the attack in Libya an act of terror for 14 days. Crowley said that Romney’s was “right” in that the Obama administration spent weeks refusing to say that the attack was terrorism, but she thought at the time that “he picked the wrong word.” “I heard the president speak at the time. I, sort of, reread a lot of stuff about Libya because I knew we’d probably get a Libya question so I kind of wanted to be up on it,” said Crowley. “I knew that the president had said, you know, these acts of terror won’t stand. Or, whatever the whole quote was.” “Right after that I did turn around and say, but you’re totally correct that they spent two weeks telling us this was about a tape and that that there was this riot outside the Benghazi consulate which there wasn’t,” Crowley added. “He was right in the main, I just think he picked the wrong word,” Crowley concluded. She went on to say that her instinct forced her to correct Romney even though his “thrust” was correct. Read more at http://www.reagancoalition.com/articles/2012/20121016013-cnn-crowley.html#E00G692BVDECY8YY.99
on October 16,2012 | 09:24PM
st1d wrote:
outrageous. right from the start of this incident, the obama administration contrived to protray the libya attack and murders as a spontaneous protest to a movie. he even betrayed the american citizen that produced the film.

for crowley to be so deceitful and biased on this incident and its subsequent cover up by the obama administration is par for cnn. if it weren't for the copies of the videos and recordings of that rose garden statement by obama, cnn would never have exposed its bias.

the corrections will most likely never be broadcast again in mainstream media. obama lied. romney caught him. and cnn tried to save obama.

on October 16,2012 | 10:11PM
Jonas wrote:
And you believe that Romney didn't lie up there on stage?
on October 16,2012 | 10:36PM
Pacej001 wrote:
You got it exactly backwards, Bill, based on Obama's Rose Garden statement and numerous statements culminating in his UN speech.
on October 16,2012 | 11:28PM
tiki886 wrote:
New bumper sticker: "People died, so Obama lied".
on October 16,2012 | 09:51PM
Jonas wrote:
Glad you said that so I didn't have to.
on October 16,2012 | 10:33PM
Pacej001 wrote:
Did I make a judgment in comparison to the Bush presidency? Did I compare Bush's actions to those of Obama's? Did I defend or offer excuses for Bush's alleged failures? No, no, and no. Now, we can split hairs about whose failure is most egregious, that of Bush or Obama, but the fact remains that the Obama administration, including his Rose Garden statement, blamed the Bengazi attack on passions inflamed by a YouTube movie when, in fact, the State Department, the Obama administration, knew or should have known immediately, that the opposite was true, that an organized force attacked and killed our ambassador. After Obama's Rose Garden statement, in which he made only a very indirect reference to terrorism, he, his UN ambassador, and numerous administration officials stuck to the YouTube story. Why? Incompetence? Conspiracy to cover the fractured fairytale that is Obama's middle east policy? I want to know now, not conveniently post-election. So should you rather than exhuming Geo. Bush.
on October 16,2012 | 10:36PM
inverse wrote:
Excellent summary of the TRUTH. Romney is not perfect but Obama was given four years and he has failed and needs to be replaced. Regarding Bush2 I voted him the first time around and then voted against him for a second term because of the bogus reasons he and his administration gave to invade Iraq for the 2nd time after Sept 11. Obama like Bush2, does NOT deserve a 2nd term. To bad there are no term limits for our Hawaii State legislatures. The State of Hawaii would be a lot BETTER place if we did not have career politicians in office forever.
on October 17,2012 | 03:25AM
312guy wrote:
Romney is willing to give legal status to undocumented aliens for joining the military, Why so his son don't have to serve a day, Why is he wanting to mix his religious beliefs on the rest of the country, in his perfect mormon world there is a mommy and daddy and no sex before marriage
on October 16,2012 | 09:50PM
Pacej001 wrote:
Can't speak to why the Romney kids haven't gone into the military. However, the percentage of young Americans who have done so is minuscule. There are plenty of decent kids out there that chose not to volunteer. One thing I do know is that I knew many, many Mormons while I was in the military. They were uniformly excellent and served with a level of honor and professionalism that set them apart.
on October 16,2012 | 10:52PM
inverse wrote:
Neither did Obama or Bill Clinton serve in the military. Unlike Duke Aiona, it appears Romney will NOT try to apply his religious beliefs into his decisions as President of the US. He knows his time as president has to be spent on the economy and foreign policy such as China, Iran, Iraq, N Korea, etc and not make it his goal to overturn Roe vs Wade. Romney does to end Obamacare as Cayetano needs to end the Aloha train to nowhere. I am not a overly religious person however I think kids needs some kind of belief to realize that there are forces or things in this world that are beyond the comprehension of the human race and that respect, honor, beliefs in a higher order etc are worthy goals and ideals that might reduce teen pregnancy, kids having kids, teen drug use, bullying etc. that will make the US a BETTER society in the long run. By the way, Obama grew up in Muslim families, at least part of his life, and now professes to be a Christian who believes in God.
on October 17,2012 | 03:41AM
CriticalReader wrote:
Tonight reminded us that Romney unscripted is an embarrassing disaster and/or unreliable. Come to think of it, scripted he's kinda a disaster and unreliable.
on October 16,2012 | 10:19PM
Pacej001 wrote:
Don't think we saw the same debate. Romney did pretty well. Most commentators/polls are calling it a near draw.
on October 16,2012 | 10:53PM
64hoo wrote:
they both wanted to throw blows at each other, they should have just use the microphones and hit each other aver the head, would have been a fight.
on October 16,2012 | 11:26PM
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