Obama, Romney Debate Economic, Foreign Policy

President Barack Obama participates in a televised debate with Republican Mitt Romney at Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York, October 16

President Barack Obama participates in a televised debate with Republican Mitt Romney at Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York, October 16 (Obama for America/Scout Tufankjian)

President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney met in Hempstead, New York on Tuesday night for their second televised debate before November’s election. The candidates answered questions from the audience on both domestic and foreign policy.

The stakes were particularly high for the incumbent whose lackluster performance in the first debate in Colorado two weeks ago disappointed many Democrats.

Romney, by contrast, was seen as repairing the image of a callous, out of touch millionaire as he had been portrayed for months in the president’s campaign commercials. As former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich put it on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, “People saw him and said, ‘wait a second, that’s not the guy I’ve been frightened about.'” Instead, Romney appeared calm but capable whereas Obama struggled to deliver concise and convincing arguments.

The president came better prepared for a fight on Tuesday although he could ill afford to be seen as too aggressive for fear of putting off centrist voters. The same applied to Romney. The president still enjoys high personal approval ratings so the Republican had to criticize Obama’s policies without calling into question his character.

Romney trailed the president in national opinion polls as well as the nine critical swing states where neither party holds a decisive lead until two weeks ago but has managed to close the gap with the president in Virginia and is even ahead in Florida. Obama holds on to a two point advantage in Ohio. These three states, with a combined thirty electoral votes, will likely determine the outcome of the presidential election.

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