Who Won the Presidential Debate: Obama Crushes Romney in Second Presidential Debate


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

Debate Grades

Obama - A-

The President did everything liberal commentators told him to do and then some, coming out swinging at Governor Romney from the first minutes of the debate. Obama was much more forward in attacking Romney's claims and dismissing Romney's arguments while effectively laying out his own successes at several times throughout the debate. In a move that is sure to deliver dividends in the coming days, Obama took the last word to focus on Romney's 47% comment, slamming the candidate for dismissing half of Americans. This debate was a strong performance for President Obama and just what his campaign needed to jump-start enthusiasm heading into the campaign's final weeks.

Romney - B

Romney's first act was a tough one to follow, especially with a re-energized and hungry President Obama. While delivering a solid performance throughout most of the debate, Romney botched slam-dunk opportunities on questions about Libya and taxes. Romney's closing was weak, focusing late on attempting to humanize himself rather than making a strong case against the President's record. Romney delivered a solid performance but he needed to deliver a fantastic performance to keep the momentum on in his favor. He'll have a tough time doing so in the coming days after tonight's showing.


10:45PM - Debate grades are up and I am going to hit the debate floor. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @markskogan for more pictures and post-debate comments!

10:37PM - Obama closes with 47% slam. Smart to close with this and not give Romney a chance to respond. This will hurt Romney hard.

10:35PM - Romney playing the late-game religion card. Better late than never I guess but seems like a strange finisher.

10:34PM - Collective groan for that last question. Lame closer.

10:28PM - The surrogates are moving out for the Obama Campaign. Spin alley is about to go nuts. Candidates should be wrapping up soon.

10:26PM - Good call Mr. Kristof.

10:20PM - Gun control to "traditional families" segue? Okay....

10:19PM - Obama mentions the assault weapons ban THREE WEEKS BEFORE THE ELECTION? I can hear the collective facepalm from the Obama Campaign from here.

10:17PM - Aaaaannnndddd a gun control question out of left field.

10:15PM - Ouch. Romney fact checked right there on the spot by Crowley, holy cow. The conservative blog-o-sphere is going to go NUTS.

10:13PM - Wow, Romney absolutely BLEW that answer. That was a huge issue for the Romney campaign and Romney just botched it hard. Obama is absolutely killing the answer to this question and slamming Romney on playing politics. Somewhere the Romney campaign is mashing:

10:11PM - Bumbling answer from Mitt. He seems very lost - very unusual. He should have had a slam-dunk answer to this question and he's blowing it.

10:10PM - Strongly worded response from Obama but its not answering the question at all. Puffing his chest on foreign policy but dodging answer the actual question. Great closer on the "gretting the coffins" comment.

10:09PM - Here comes Libya.

10:06PM - HUGE laugh from the media room at Obama's shot at Romney, mentioning his retirement is not as big as Romney's.

10:04PM - Romney: "I'm not in favor of rounding people up." I'm in favor of them rounding themselves up.

10:02PM - Whoever had "gangbang" in the office debate pool is fist-pumping so hard right now.

10:01PM - Poor Lorraine is going to start trending for all the wrong reasons:

10:00PM - Romney still saying Obama has never promoted immigration reform. Was the D.R.E.A.M. Act a collective delusion? Was I hallucinating for like three whole months in DC? 

9:58PM - Now Romney talks immigration? Did I miss a memo?

9:55PM - Romney: The President hasn't even submitted an immigration plan. Uh, have you heard of the D.R.E.A.M. Act?

9:53PM - Strongest speech we've seen from Obama yet, rattling off his accomplishments and hammering Romney on his "severely conservative" positions. 

9:51PM - Obama rattling off accomplishments. Very smooth and polished - he's been practicing this one.

9:50PM - Obama painting Bush II as better than Romney? Brutal. Calling Romney more extreme than Bush on social policy.

9:49PM - This whole "China" issue seems very foreign policy wonkish and not terribly relevant to the moving pieces in the campaign, yet they're spending an awful lot of time for it.

9:47PM - Republican fundraisers just had a heart attack over Romney saying "my party has focused on big business for too long."

9:46PM - BUSH. DIFFERENT. Energy?

9:45PM - Big laugh from media on Romney saying how happy he is to set himself apart from Bush.

9:40PM - Romney on women: pay equity is screwed up, so we should make jobs more flexible, so that more women can be paid less than men.

9:39PM - Romney: I learned about women because I had to run a state. Decades of private practice? Hell with that. Translation: I have many friends who are women.

9:39PM - Just got handed a hot off the press transcript of the debate updated to 5 minutes ago. Somebody hand this typist a beer or five.

9:38PM - Lily Ledbetter answer was buried in the response. Generally weak answer, should have been more forceful, especially with polls showing women going back to Romney.

9:36PM - Here comes the female question. Lily Ledbetter setup perfectly.

9:35PM - Romney: "Of course [the numbers] add up." Proceeds to not give any numbers. Are you kidding me?

9:34PM - Big shots from Obama at Romney's tax plan. Wow.

9:33PM - Big Bird is good and all but you gotta let it go Dems.

9:32PM - Obama going after Romney's tax plan directly. This is the aggressive Obama everyone was crying for two weeks ago. Romney is carrying himself very well though - unclear how its going to play out quite yet in terms of style.

9:28PM - Obama points the finger, correctly, at congressional Republicans for blocking jobs legislation.

Filibusters - how do they work?

9:26PM - Romney trying to give specifics in absolutes, that's not how it works. Obama looks giddy to take this one up.

9:25PM - Romney artfully dodges tax question by referencing it in terms of proportion of revenue rather than percentage of income.

9:23PM - Oh, a question on tax policy, this will surely go more peacefully.

9:19PM - This pissing match is going to backfire on somebody, the question is who.

9:17PM - Obama going after Romney directly and calling him out on lies. Taking shots at Romney over record in MA against goal. Much more aggressive play from both candidates. This is on track to get quite a bit nastier. Candidates are going after each other DIRECTLY. This is getting brutal very fast.


9:15PM - Romney: "People in coal country grabbed my arms and said 'Please, save my job.'" I wonder what Big Bird did?

9:14PM - Romney talking big energy in a convincing manner, taking shots at environmentalists as he goes. Going to his base with attacks.

9:13PM - Obama's rhetoric is more aggressive but he doesn't have the passion quite yet. Feels stiff. Better, but stiff. Romney coming across very comfortably.

9:10PM - Obama going after Romney hard, "Romney doesn't have a five point plan, he has a one point plan." Talking tax cuts for the wealthy, outsourcing and Bain record. Let's see if this works.

9:09PM - Obama: "What Governor Romney said is not true." I bet that line has been practiced for two weeks straight.

9:09PM - Professor Mitt rears his head, going through business cases to discuss Detroit. Wasn't the lesson of the first debate that going through details like this is what 

9:06PM - Obama references Detroit bailout in addressing youth employment issue. Is working on the auto-line really the job college grads are aiming for right now? He's slowly turning to the jobs plan but its quickly turning into Professor Obama.

9:05PM - First words from Obama on the question of youth employment.

9:04PM - Strong response from Romney on the opening question, although he is clashing directly with congressional republicans on the issue of financial aid for college students and Pell grants. The attacks are coming strong.

9:03PM - First question to Romney on millenial issues. How do we get jobs post graduation? Romney has the floor.

9:02PM - Candidates are on stage. Here we go.

8:59PM - PolicyMic team is excited here in Spin Alley! Let's do this thing!

8:55PM - Candy Crowley is on stage and introducing herself. Five minutes left!

8:50PM - Lots of chatter on women's issues on Twitter. Think we'll here anything from the candidates?


8:48PM - PolicyMic is sitting right next to the Fox "compound" here in the media warehouse. Spotted so far: Megyn Kelly, Britt Hume, Neil Cavuto, Juan Williams, and many more.

8:45PM - The floor is quieting down in Spin Alley and the official thank yous have begun on the debate floor. We are almost ready to get started! 

7:45PM - PolicyMic took two quick interviews with former DNC Chairman Howard Dean and RNC Chair Reince Preibus, asking them what they felt the most important issues for millenials was this election season.

Howard Dean told PolicyMic that the two big policy issues that were most important for millenials were "climate change" and the "cost of education." He mentioned that this election will greatly impact how those issues are handled by either an Obama or Romney administration. Dean continued that the other issue is cooperation vs. confrontation in politics, noting that Republicans offer no signs of wanting to cooperate on issues important to Americans.

Reince Preibus kept focus on the economy, pointing out that the Obama Administration had piled never before seen amounts of debt on future generations. He argued that the number one issue affecting millenials is the debt and the bad economy because leaving it unaddressed will continue to stifle growth and hurt employment opportunities for America's youth.


7:05 PM - Behind the scenes: One student journalist prepares to cover the debate, by Hofstra student Andrea Ordonez

All eyes will be on Hofstra University Tuesday night for the second presidential debate between President Barack Obama and his opponent, Mitt Romney. Following the town hall format, the debate can potentially give both candidates a much-needed boost in this close race.

For Hofstra, tonight is the university's second opportunity to get its name out to the world when it comes to presidential debates. In 2008, Hofstra hosted the final Obama-McCain showdown, often known as the “Joe the Plumber” debate. For those of you who don’t know Hofstra, here’s the scoop from an actual student, currently behind-the-scenes at the debate.

I applied to Hofstra after watching the 2008 debate, partially because of Anderson Cooper reporting live from Hofstra Hall’s front lawn with a group of students. I loved how green the school looked; Hofstra is an accredited arboretum, which adds to its uniqueness.

The school is 25 miles away from New York City, giving me the comfort of a suburban feel. The eighth largest mall in America, Roosevelt Field, sits nearby, along with the Nassau Coliseum. But from the 13th floor of my residence hall on South Campus, I can still see the city skyline.

Hofstra is considered a medium-size campus with roughly 7,200 undergraduate students, and an average undergraduate class size of 21. I’ve had classes as small as 10 people, which has helped me connect with professors whose resumes include the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times

Most schools are defined by their athletics, but Hofstra isn’t one of them. Sure, we have Charles Jenkins of the Golden State Warriors to call our own in the NBA right now, and our women’s softball team made it to the NCAA Super Regionals last spring. But the amount of students that show up to a lecture by Jeb Bush or Chris Matthews far exceeds the number that cheers in the stands for basketball games.

I was at Shuart Stadium for one of the last football games in 2009, and sat depressed for weeks when the school decided to let go of its football team. But I got over it after meeting Sid Bernstein, the music producer that found the Beatles, in the Cultural Center Theater, and getting my first byline in the Hofstra Chronicle for covering students sleeping in tents on the quads as a mark of solidarity with refugees worldwide. 

Hofstra has stayed on top of the political sphere long before this presidential debate. The university has hosted presidential conferences, complete with visits from former presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford.

In my time here, I’ve sat on the ground floor of the Mack Sports Complex for the 2010 New York State Gubernatorial Debate on campus, and got my picture taken with The Rent is Too Damn High’s Jimmy McMillan. I’ve listened to Karl Rove rant about the Citizens United case in the cozy parlor of Hofstra Hall. Nervous out of my mind, I’ve talked to my heroes Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein at the backstage of Adams Playhouse. And now, I’m sitting in the media filing room with some of the best journalists in the world to cover a presidential debate taking place literally in my backyard.

Yes, parking at Hofstra can be a pain when you’re in a rush to class. It's hard to jump over the huge puddles that form when it rains. Sometimes the food does seem overpriced. But it’s hard to find a college campus without similar complaints. Overall, these are small prices to pay for a school that can get not just politicians but also Snoop Dogg and Jimmy Fallon to perform on campus.

It’s an honor to represent the school’s oldest club in an event that can affect the course of American leadership. But when the media leaves and the gates come down again, students will be left with more than a Unispan that narrates Hofstra’s history. They’ll have the memories of a spotlight that few schools get to experience.   

7:02 PM Despite Romney’s new polling lead, the public must be cautious not to vote for failed policies, by PM Pundit James Connolly

The polls are currently tracking a close race between Obama and Romney. According to a recent Gallup Poll, Romney is polling at 50%, with a four-point lead over Obama, following a steady increase in his numbers among likely voters following the first presidential debate.

That this is surprising goes without saying. Despite last month’s strong employment data, Obama is still losing ground in key swing states, such as Florida. 

recent report by ABC News notes that Romney is "making up serious ground" with Latino voters in the state. This suggests that Romney’s message is resonating with communities hard hit by the recession.

Although Romney’s comeback has been impressive, the facts on the ground have not significantly changed. The key swing states that are set to determine this election, such as Ohio, will be decided by the working class vote. And it has been these communities that have suffered the most under the current economic conditions. Overwhelmingly, the relief for these hard-pressed communities has come in the form of fiscal stimulus, the kind of government spending that Paul Ryan lobbiedfor to aid his hometown, Jainsville, Wisconsin.

Just as importantly, a recent New York Times article reports that current income inequality has hit historic levels. The paper reports a study finding that "the top 1% of households now hold a larger share of overall wealth than the bottom 90% does." Even worse, these soaring levels of inequality will have real consequences on the economic recovery implemented by either candidate.

It is important to keep in mind that Romney’s current policy proposals guarantee a return to the same economic policies of the Bush years: more tax cuts, aid to corporations, investments in unsustainable energy and an aggressive foreign policy on issues such as Iran that guarantee an expansion of military spending.

At this point, the public should avoid being carried away by theatrics and remember that the country’s economy is at stake. Thus, the debate tonight is an opportunity to critically assess those policies and can be followed here, live at PolicyMic.

6:45PM - Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) makes an appearance on the spin floor, slamming Romney for his record as governor, citing hundreds of vetoes and failure to work across the aisle. He seems to be laying the groundwork for the Obama attack to come at the debate tonight.



 6:15PM - We are live and setup in the media tent here at the Hofstra debate. Campaign surrogates are starting to filter in to do some pre-debate positioning for the candidates - stay here for live photos and coverage!

3:30PM - I am officially in New York. Paying a quick visit to the PolicyMic HQ before heading out to Hofstra and the debate!

Signing the official PM Guestbook.

Me with Super-Editor Chris Miles

1:45PM - The Candy Crowley debate rages on. 

Politico is reporting that Crowley has confirmed that she will buck expectations and be more than just a "microphone holder" at the town hall debate this evening. Via Politico:

In an interview with CNN this afternoon, Candy Crowley reiterated that, like past town-hall debate moderators, she intends to do more than just hold the microphone at tonight's debate in Hempstead, N.Y. -- an intention that has caused concern for both campaigns."They will call on 'Alice,' and 'Alice' will stand up and ask a question. Both candidates will answer. Then there's time for a follow-up question, facilitating a discussion, whatever you want to call it," Crowley said. "So if Alice asks oranges, and someone answers apples, there's the time to go, 'But Alice asked oranges? What's the answer to that?" Or, 'Well, you say this, but what about that?'"

Both campaigns are in a huff about Crowley potentially going rogue and throwing the candidates for a loop. If last week's moderation by Martha Raddatz was any preview, I say "Go Crowley!"

1:00PM - It looks like Romney is following the same game plan with his national tax policy as he did for his personal tax plan as he continues to dodge the issues. Check out this lovely spoof site spreading through social media today: http://www.romneytaxplan.com/ 

12:40PM - Campaign surrogates are getting their spin machines going nice and early today. Allow me to summarize their arguments to save you the time of slogging through talking head transcripts.

How the Romney Campaign is painting Obama:


How the Obama Campaign is painting Romney:

12:00PM - For your lunch break, check out this video of Congressman Paul Ryan faux-volunteering at a soup kitchen in Ohio.

Since its release, the video and accompanying story have gone viral online, with many liberal outlets accusing Ryan of pandering for a photo opportunity while showing his true colors in refusing to actually dry dishes or do much of any volunteering after the shutters stopped clicking. Check out the video and you be the judge.

9:45AM - I'm officially heading north to NYC to experience the Obama & Romney show live and in person.


If you had told me three weeks ago that Obama would be coming into the second presidential debate in the fight for his life I would have scoffed. Romney, coming off gaffe after gaffe, was hemmorhaging support, particularly in the all-important swing states. The Obama campaign was on the offensive, pounding Romney for the now infamous "47%" comment and his lack of clarity on his tax plan.

Then, on one clear evening in Denver, the tone of the election took a sudden turn. Candidate Obama, the fiery, passionate candidate from 2008, phoned in a performance that would have made a middle school debate coach blush. Romney was ready and delivered a performance that was aggressive and convincing, putting the president on the defensive and laying out his own positions in a way that seemed to win viewers over.

Even though Romney's lurch to the center turned out be more half-truths and blatant factual inaccuracies, the damage had been done. Obama's dominant position had been shaken and the media pounced on the opportunity to push the horse race story that it wanted. 

Since then, Obama's controlling lead has tightened into margin-of-error territory as the Romney team pushes their advantage into the second debate.

Tonight's performance from both candidates will be an important inflection point in the campaign as it barrels towards November 6. 

For Obama, this evening's performance can make or break his campaign. Another performance like Denver and Obama will be ensuring that a race he had all but put away two weeks ago will become wide open in the final weeks of the election. Obama must appear more aggressive and passionate without coming off as angry or unnecessarily partisan. He will similarly have to balance going after Romney's penchant for untruthfulness with a more positive and uplifting message focused on policy.

Tonight won't be a cake walk for Romney either. While most expected Romney to get clobbered two weeks ago, he will enjoy no such handicap going in to tonight. If anything, Romney's expectations are higher than Obama's as conservatives expect Romney to deliver another winning performance and truly take the wind out of Obama's sails. The Romney campaign knows that the sprint for the middle won't work twice in fooling the president, so Romney's messaging tonight will have to focus on pointing out the failings of the Obama administration rather than tooting his own, newly moderate horn.

Here are the details for the Oct. 16 debate: 

Topic: Town meeting format including foreign and domestic policy

The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which citizens will ask questions of the candidates on foreign and domestic issues. Candidates each will have 2 minutes to respond, and an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate a discussion. The town meeting participants will be undecided voters selected by the Gallup Organization.

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

Be sure to follow along LIVE as I cover the debate from the debate hallf at Hofstra University in New York. Follow me on Twitter at @markskogan to see pictures and tweets from the debate!