Who Won the Second Presidential Debate: Obama Beat Romney, Likely to Get a Small Bounce


Hello again everyone! Tonight I am going to be covering the second of three presidential debates between President Barack Obama and former Massachusettes Governor Mitt Romney. Tonights topics will cover a range of domestic and foreign policy issues, as will the third debate to be hosted on October 22nd.

Barack Obama is coming into the debate under heavy scrutiny after his poor performance during the last one, which proved to be so damaging as to give Romney a 3-4 point bounce that may carry him to the presidency if it holds through November (though Nate Silver notes it's already receding). The President faces the tricky task of aggressively refuting Romney's policies and demonstrating that he can be a strong advocate for the poor and middle class against rapacious elite interests, while avoiding coming across as a jerk like his Vice President Joe Biden at times did during his debate. This shouldn't be any problem given the holes and inconsistencies in Romney's arguments and the president's own calm demeanor, but the president has a long history now of failing to communicate and sell his own policies, so how effectively his arguments will come across tonight remains to be seen.

Conversely, Mitt Romney currently has the edge in these debates after an energized performance two weeks ago that enabled him to sieze the mantle of change from the president. However, tonight he will lack the element of surprise and will be in a debate whose format may prove to be a challenge for him. President Obama will be much more aggressive and combative this time than before, and if Biden's performance is any indication, will likely tear up many of Romney's proposed policies and reveal how vague and reckless many of them are — especially when it comes to foreign policy. Moreover, the debate will occur in a town hall format that calls for a level of empathy that Romney has a hard time providing, and which in the past has frequently caused Romney make gaffes too i.e. "Nascar owners," "I hunt varmints," "I'm also unemployed," etc. Romney will need to keep calm under pressure and light on his feet the whole evening. As it stands the campaign isn't taking any chances, and outside of the debate arena local Republicans are fighting hard to maintain an edge any way possibly, including keeping Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson off the ballot.

PolicyMic will be covering the presidential debate live. For live updates bookmark and refresh this page.


9:39PM And Obama gets the last word.  Obama fought much harder today than he did during the last debate and scored some big hits on Romney, especially regarding Romney's reaction to Libya, his difference from George W. Bush, and his ability to be an advocate for women. Romney did a good job attacking Obama's record on immigration and the current unemployment figures, but came off as very aggressive at times during the debate, trying to overrule the moderator and getting up close and personal with the President, and that did not come across anywhere near as well as Obama's efforts, which he thoroughly masked with compliments and politeness. I expect a slight bounce for Obama after this, especially considering how Romney bombed the Libya question. 

9:36PM Obama says that the idea that he is somehow a socialist, that government drives the economy is the biggest misconception about him.  Which is actually accurate. Says that he believes in individual initiative and success, but that we need a level playing field.

9:35PM Romney basically says that Obama is lying about his character, and says that he does believe in 100% of all Americans - except that he himself said he didn't. But then mentions his record with his church, which is a remarkable turnaround from his previous stance on discussing his religion.

9:34PM Hmm, the last questioner asks about what the biggest misconception is about each candidate. That could give some rather interesting answers.

9:33PM Obama's final speech on investing in the future and not tax breaks is polling well with the audience.

9:31PM Obama once agains mentions Romney's history of outsourcing, as for currency manipulation, the renimbi has gone up 11% thanks to our pressure on the Chinese government.

9:30PM Obama says that he and Romney differ in that he wants to end tax breaks for those who outsource jobs, and that Romney encourages such behavior. Romney's plan will increase jobs in China or India, but not here in the U.S.

9:27PM The debate has returned to discussion about trade somehow, and Romney goes on a long discussion about how China is unfairly killing our manufacturing industry and how Obama's failure to label China a currency manipulator is abbeting such behavior.

9:25PM Obama has had much more success overriding the moderator, and got 4 extra minutes of speaking time as a result.

9:24PM Romney basically said that he supported an assault weapons ban when he could win bipartisan support for it. Too bad the NRA is so ideological that they will probably ignore this inconsistency.

9:22PM Now Romney is talking about the Fast and Furious scandal, an issue that only Republicans really care about. Crowly notes that Romney once supported an assault weapons ban but now opposes it. Romney's flip flopping is getting revealed tonight.

9:21PM Romney agrees that we need to enforce our gun laws, but opposes introducing new ones. Hah, funny enough, as soon as he talks about promoting marriage in schools his support among undecided men in CNN's instant response tracker drops.

9:18PM Now a question about gun control. Obama goes into a discussion about how he met with families who were affected by the Aurora, CO shooting. We must enforce the laws we've got, need to keep guns out the hand of psychopaths, and that we need to introduce an assault weapons ban. This is new. This is proving to be an enlightening night.

9:16PM Ouch, and Crowley comes out and says that Romney lied about his attack on Obama...and the crowd claps. Romney has lost on this issue.

9:14PM Obama is not shoving the blame for Libya off on Secretary Clinton, saying that at the end of the day she works for him. He says that he and everyone else mourned with the families of those who died and Romney's notion that they didn't care is offensive. Most powerful moment of the night.

9:13PM Now he's attacking Obama for campaigning while these events were going on, and for a failed foreign policy in general, especially regarding Iran and Israel.

9:11PM Romney is stumbling over his attack on Obama, saying that Obama is right to take the blame for the failure. He explains away his mistake by saying that the situation was unclear, yet attacks Obama for the same problem?

9:11PM Now Obama goes on a long riff defending his foreign policy record - a record that is thoroughly in line with American public opinion.

9:09PM Obama defends himself by saying that he sends people abroad and feels deeply for their safety. Promises that security will be beefed up in the future and that the attackers will be punished. Attacks Romney for politicizing the issue.

9:08PM Now a questioner asks Obama about Libya - who denied our diplomats the security they asked for?

9:06PM Romney attacks Obama for having a pension that invests in Chinese firms, but Obama jokes he doesn't know as he doesn't check his often. Its nowhere near as large as Romney's. This debate has been a bit short on jokes.

9:05PM Romney once against slams Obama for failing to propose a solution to immigration his first year in office as he promised. This is one of two attacks that President Obama has really failed to answer.

9:00PM How will Obama answer? Romney got a fair bit of support from undecideds for his ideas. Obama notes that he has greatly increased border security and that the number of illegal immigrants is down enormously. Condemns Romney's policy as being needlessly harsh towards immigrants and for supporting the profiling of minorities. His answer fell pretty flat, although mentioning the law's likely impact on his children was a nice touch. 

8:59PM Romney is facing the immigration question head on for the first time this debate season. Favors legal immigration and wants to stop illegal immigration; will not grant amnesty or provide illegals with documentation. Says that children of illegals should have a pathway to citizenship. The President is a terrible advocate on the issue and has failed to propose an answer in four years.

8:56PM Oddly enough, women seems to have been responding better to Romney tonight than the men, if CNN's tracker is to be trusted. Romney continues a long attack on Obama's record as one of disappointment and failure. Basically saying that Obama's recovery isn't equal to Regan's, and once again questions the unemployment numbers. Obama should really hit back and defend those numbers...

8:54PM Now he is tying Romney to the Republicans in Congress, members of the least popular and productive and most polarized sessions in history.

8:52PM President Obama is getting a lot more speaking time tonight than Romney. Conservatives will be after Crowley's scalp for not shutting him up.

8:50PM Ah, now is agreeing that Romney is different from George Bush - but in a way far worse than him i.e. immigration, Planned Parenthood spending, etc. Obama is getting a lot of barbs in tonight.

8:48PM Now Obama gets the chance to sell his economic policies - 31 consecutive months of job growth. Points out - accurately - that Romney's economic plan is the exact same as Bush's, and that Romney has profited from outsourcing to China. He is the last person who can be tough on China.

8:46PM Romney says that his economic plan is plenty to differentiate himself from Bush. Oh, that is not going to work. I cant' wait to see where Obama will go with this! Romney does agree that Bush was a reckless spender. 

8:45PM Oooh, a voter says that she still places a lot of the blame on current problems on the Bush administration. Asks what the biggest difference is between him and George W. Bush. Nice!

8:42PM Obama says that Romney never got behind the Lily Ledbetter Act, said "he'd get back to you. That's not the kind of advocate we need." Maneuvers the debate to health coverage for women, and how Romney said that employers should have the power to make healthcare choices for women. Attacking Romney as a poor advocate for everybody is a good angle and its working.

8:41PM Romney's mention of his efforts to get more women involved in his cabinet in Massachusetts was a good answer, but his only answer to resolving the wage gap was to grow the economy and not better regulation or incentives.

8:39PM Hmm, how will Romney respond to a question about pay equity for women? Most conservatives don't feel that this is a real issue.

8:37PM Number one reason why Obama has an empathy edge over Romney with women: he was raised by a single-mother and had a grandmother whose career was limited by gender restrictions. Female voters in the audience are loving this. 

8:36PM Romney continues to try and dominate the moderator and people aren't liking it. Conversely, Obama is trying to be as polite as possible while fighting for more time.

8:35PM Romney is looking kinda pissed. Crowley asked Romney what he would do if the numbers don't add up.  Romney's response: "Of course they add up." I've ran all kinds of things and balanced the budget. I know math.

8:33PM Obama points out the mathematical impossibility of Romney's tax and spend plan.  He should be nailing this but is stumbling over his lines. Calls Romney's plan a sketchy deal that Romney himself would never accept as a businessman, and the undecided voters love it.

8:30PM According to CNN's instant reaction poll, Obama has been hitting a lot more highs in approval than Romney.

8:29PM Now slams Romney for paying a lower tax rate than ordinary workers, and having a governing philosophy that failed in the past and will fail in the future.

8:27PM Obama defends his record for providing tax cuts to the middle class. Argues though that we have a responsibility to future generations, and this requires that we raise taxes on those making $250,000. Would have passed such a bill doing so already if not for Romney's allies in Congress.

8:26PM Ah, now Romney says that he'd limit the total number of money you could deduct, but allow citizens to pick and choose which deductions to use. Promises to not tax savings and investment earnings.

8:24PM Yep, now he's talking about general rate cuts, not the deductions themselves. Looking behind Romney, Obama is looking much more alert.

8:24PM Now a questioner asks Romney whether the deductions he would cut would include all those that benefit the average person. Tough question, and one I expect him dodge.

8:23PM Romney is bashing the moderator, and she is not taking it. The undecided voter instant reaction poll is not responding well to this.

8:21PM Romney accuses Obama of failing to stem gas prices, and Obama turns it around by noting that the rise in gas prices was due to a growing domestic economy. Notes that the jobs Romney calls imaginary exist in the wind industry in Iowa and Colorado.

8:19PM Ahhh, first fight of the night between Romney and Obama. Romney isn't keeping his cool. Obama notes that the administration only limited permits because the oil companies weren't using their permits.

8:17PM Obama undermines Romney's support for the coal industry by noting that as Massachusetts Governor he closed plants down.

8:14PM Romney is attacking Obama's administration of energy policy as being too tough; most energy development did not occur on federal land, and Obama has limited oil licenses. Hmmm, now he's talking about saving our country's coal plants. That would fly well in West Virginia, but he's already winning there.

8:12PM Discussion has moved onto promoting domestic energy sources, and Obama's philosophy of pursuing all types is getting favorable reviews. Environmentalists are not going to like his support for natural gas fracking. Preempts Romney's energy plan by saying he'd let the oil lobby write our energy policies. Obama says he's not going to cede future energy sources/industries to other countries. 

8:11PM Ahh, Romney wanted to attack Obama in return but Crowley shut him down. Lehrer's performance for the first debate is looking increasingly bad.

8:10PM Obama says that what Romney said was untrue. Romney's plan for Detroit wouldn't let the companies stay open and survive. Attacks Romney by saying that his economic plan favors the special interests. The CNN instant ticker is giving a mixed response.

8:09PM Romney disputes current unemployment numbers, and says that his proposal to let Detroit go bankrupt was the same as what the President did.

8:08PM Hmm, Obama covers a lot of ground, but is speaking quickly and wandering a bit. Crowley asks Romney about what he would do for the long-term unemployed. 

8:06PM Obama also talks about creating jobs, but good jobs as well as manufacturing jobs, leading into a discussion about a tax system that encourages investment at home.

8:04PM Romney talks about how he will keep the Pell Grant program growing and will use his business experience to keep the economy growing. How he will save Pell Grants from being cut given his tax cuts is a mystery.

8:03PM A student is the first to ask a question, about whether he will be able to get a job after he graduates.

8:02PM Moderator Candy Crowley"And because I'm the optimistic sort, I'm sure the candidates will keep their comments on topic and (on time)." Hah, fat chance of that.

7:59PM At the very least I will have the undecided voter instant reaction ticker to comment on.

7:53PM Okay, I'm going to be doing something different tonight and watching the debate on CNN rather than CSPAN. Kind of a big change, since I've used CSPAN for the two debates so far and for both the GOP and Democratic National Convention.  I wonder if CNN's different camerawork will make a difference in how Obama and Romney compare on stage.

6:48PM Of course, a big aspect of the race that is hard to take into consideration is the impact of early voting on the final results.  Some states have been voting for weeks now. How much of a lead did Obama build up before the first debate? Its important to remember that Obama and Romney are fighting for an ever smaller portion of the electorate every day.

6:44PM RealClearPolitics has an article that examines Obama's and Romney's ground game.  Apparently Obama has 120 field offices in Ohio compared to Romney's 40. Unless Obama screws up tonight and the overall political narrative turn, I don't see how Romney is going to win the state. He is simply getting out organized. Florida is much more contested.

5:34PM Nate Silver at the New York Times examines past debate performances and finds that, statistically, President Obama is not likely to benefit much from tonight's debates. That said, given how unpredictable this year has been, who knows what'll happen.


10:21 Via Politico again, the inside scoop within the Obama campaign on the race seems to be that they only need to win one of the three big battleground states - Ohio, Florida, or Virginia - to pull off a win. Unless Romney wins all three he cannot secure enough states farther West to put him over 270 electoral votes. Conversely, the Romney campaign thinks it can win if it loses one state, but it will still be close.  Obama must be thrilled by the Ohio polls then and angling to win back Florida. How often do you think Obama is going to mention the auto bailout and the impact of the Ryan Plan on healthcare for seniors?

10:13PM Via Politico, it seems that K Street lobbyists are excited about the possibility of a Romney administration because they think it will be a lot easier to get inside jobs - which they will promptly turn around and profit from - after being excluded by executive order under Obama.  Well if that doesn't give a good reason never to vote for Romney I don't know what does.  When the corrupt are excited about something, shouldn't that be a warning sign?

10:10PM This article at RealClearPolitics discusses Romney's history with the town hall style debate forum and the challenges he will confront tonight.

9:51PM Given how foreign policy will be a big issue this debate, its important to understand just what is happening in Iran. David Frum has a good article on CNN on the impact the U.S. sponsored sanctions regime has had on Iran and on the various ends it should be set to obtain. If only Romney's neocon advisors weren't so blinded by ideology.

9:30PM For those interested in reading tea leaves, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has accepted the blame for the failure of security that led to the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others in Libya. You'd assume that if she was planning on running in 2016 she wouldn't accept responsibility and try to shift the blame on others. Well, if that is the case then Biden's VP debate performance and DNC speech may prove to be doubly crucial four years from now.

9:25PM It seems that the Romney campaign isn't buying its own spin about the election swinging its way as its pulling staffers out of Pennsylvania.  I must say though, those who found out that you could track such key people - and consequently the state of the Presidential race - through their twitter accounts are geniuses.