ROBINSON: Obama strikes back, sets stage for Round 3
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 1:33 p.m.
Not a close call. President
Moderator Candy Crowley stepped in and noted that Obama was correct. (Indeed, according to the transcript, Obama classified the attack as among
It was a moment that encapsulated what Obama accomplished Tuesday night: He punched hard, and he punched with facts.
In these debates, superficialities can be important. Downcast and mopey in the first encounter, this time Obama was sharp and combative throughout. He went after Romney directly and personally; I lost track of the number of times Obama charged that some Romney assertion or another was flatly untrue. He quoted Romney's past statements that directly contradict what Romney is saying now. All evening, he was in Romney's face.
It's not that Romney had an awful night, and certainly not that he was some kind of shrinking violet. But in the first debate, Obama's passivity allowed Romney to interrupt, interject, and generally control the flow of the conversation in a way that seemed merely forceful, not obnoxious. Tuesday night, with Obama playing offense, Romney had to dial his own performance up a notch. At times he seemed a little cranky, a little flustered.
The town hall format — and Crowley's firm hand — ensured that the debate covered quite a lot of ground. Obama got to fight on favorable political terrain. A question about equal pay for women, for example, allowed him to question Romney's position on women's reproductive rights and whether health insurance should have to pay for contraception. A question about immigration let Obama note that Romney has vowed to veto the DREAM
Allowing Obama to make direct appeals to women and Latinos was probably not in the Romney game plan.
Romney did get to make his pitch, however. He made clear that the central theme of his candidacy is a promise to create jobs. Given the state of the economy, it would be stunning if people didn't at least give him a hearing.
But all in all, not Romney's best outing. Responding to the final question, he said he cared for
Eugene Robinson is a columnist for the Washington Post.
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