The funniest moment came when both Obama and the moderator, Candy Crowley, were both trying to get Romney to explain how his tax plan works. You remember that? Cut taxes for everyone, increase spending, and, using players to be named later, balance the budget. Obama even parenthetically mentioned the “six studies” that supposedly supported Romney's claim, a claim that has been roundly debunked. Nobody in the GOP or out of it can give a coherent explanation of how this Five-point plan of his would work. And Romney kept dancing away from anything that might look like a specific.
Romney was again doing his not-Romney, Mr. Etch-a-Sketch, making all kinds of moderate noises. He's now in favor of the free contraception it seems. Oh, and doesn't want to round up and deport undocumented aliens.
At one point during the immigration question, Romney falsely claimed that the Democrats had a super-majority in both Houses. It's a favorite claim of the GOP in general, but it's just not true. The Dems at the outset had 57 seats in the Senate. After ten months, they got a 58th, the result of Senator Al Franken finally being seated following a protracted fight by the sore loser. By then, both Senators Kennedy and Byrd were extremely ill, and Kennedy died just a few months later. There was never a “super majority”. The Senate requires 60 votes against the filibuster.
Romney had some memes fresh for the occasion. The “middle class was crushed” but only in the past four years. He dismissed the Bush years as a different president in a different era.
Where Romney really ran into a brick wall was on Libya. Bringing it up in the first place was a miscalculation on his part, since Obama swiftly brought up the fact that even before we knew the Ambassador had been killed, Romney was out there trying to capitalize on it with a press conference, bitterly blaming Obama because the middle east is in deep unrest, and because Americans are magically invulnerable. Obama called that “offensive.”
There were two missed opportunities by Obama, though. When Romney began the disgusting right wing prattle about “the world apology tour,” Obama should have asked Romney if he stood by that disgraceful video that sparked riots in Egypt and other locations. Second was when Romney accused the administration of ignoring a request by the embassy for increased security. The accusation is untrue; the embassy at TRIPOLI put in such a request a few days earlier, but not the Benghazi one. Further, the Republican House cut diplomatic security by $300 million last year. Maybe they should rethink that before the US loses more ambassadors.
But the real damage for Romney came when he tried the Faux News wheeze that Obama didn't even admit it was an act of terrorism for 14 days. Obama noted that he stood in the Rose Garden and called it an Act of Terrorism the very next day. Romney tried saying that he didn't. Obama snapped, “Read the transcript.” Candy Crowley cut in and said, “He did say that, Governor.” Romney visibly wilted.
But Romney's biggest misstep came near the end, when he announced that he cared, very deeply and sincerely, about 100% of all Americans. That line is going to be the first half of a dozen Democratic political ads over the remaining three weeks. As is Obama's rejoinder a few moments later: behind closed doors, Romney considered 47% of Americans takers who were unwilling to take responsibility for their lives. He then rattled off members of that 47%--police, firefighters, military personnel, people working two jobs and still bringing home less than $35,000 a year, and so on.
Romney tried bullying both Obama and Crowley, and didn't get much of anywhere with either of them. His inner personality—that of corporate dick—shone through in this debate. He didn't like being called on lies, he didn't like being corrected, and he was clearly set off balance by the fact that this time, Obama was shooting back, and there was a moderator willing to stop him from simply taking the stage over.
It was not his night. He didn't commit any fatal gaffes, and Obama didn't land any knockout punches, but this time as Romney left muttering angrily to his wife under his breath, it was clear to everyone that he knew he had been in a fight, and had come off second best. And, being a corporate dick, he was going to sulk about it.
One solid blow Obama landed was that of China. Romney was spewing get-tough-on-China talk, such as labeling them currency manipulators (Obama noted their currency had gone up 11½ % since he took office) and cracking down on trademark infringements. Obama noted that Romney sent 800,000 jobs to China, and said, “The governor is the last person in the world to go to if you want to get touch on China.”
Romney followed the same tactic of the first debate, being not-Romney, throwing the far right under the bus, making noises like a moderate. But this time, Obama was prepared with lots of quotes from Romney from the previous six months.
Romney told bare-faced lies, and this time Obama (and Crowley) called him on some of them, in some instances doing him considerable damage.
Obama is back in the race.