President Obama and Mitt Romney wrapped up their second debate tonight, and this time both candidates came to play. The early consensus is that Obama got aggressive and did much better than in the first go-round, though Romney didn't retreat much from his aggressive attacks—on the economy in particular. Full transcript here, and some highlights:
- Obama jabs early: “Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan. He has a one-point plan, and that’s to make sure the guys at the top play by a different set of rules.”
- Romney says the "middle class has been crushed over the last four years."
- Testy: Romney at one point scolds the president—"you'll get your chance in a moment, I'm still speaking," and print reporters say there was an "audible gasp" in the room.
- Economy: "Romney's recollection of the last four years under Obama is a strong moment for him, as he describes—more in sorrow than in anger—how bad the economy has been. Economic growth is too slow, he said, and food stamp usage is too high. 'The president wants to do well ... but the policies he's put in place ... have not led this economy take off and grow as it could have.'" Laura Meckler, Sara Murray, Wall Street Journal
- 'Binders full of women': The viral phrase of the night, issued by Romney when describing how he was pushing to hire women for his Cabinet as governor. "I went to a number of women's groups and said, 'Can you help us find folks?' and they brought us whole binders full of women." And a Twitter meme is born. GlobalPost
- Libya: "The suggestion that anybody on my team ... would play politics or mislead when we've lost four of our own is offensive, Governor," says Obama. He adds that he declared the Benghazi assault an "act of terror" in the Rose Garden the day after it occurred, an assertion Romney challenged. Moderator Candy Crowley, however, confirmed that Obama used the phrase.
A common theme:
- "Obama supporters wanted an aggressive Obama, and an aggressive Obama is what they got. Twenty minutes into the debate and there has been forceful rebuttals and vigorous interrupting on both sides. Obama has accused Mitt Romney of saying something untrue at least three times." Nia-Malika Henderson, Washington Post
- The two sparred on their approaches to the auto industry, with Obama "quickly becoming aggressive the way his supporters said he did not during the last debate." Michael D. Shear, New York Times
- The "dominant message emerging from the night was Obama’s safety-off assault on Romney, on topics from taxes to coal, to trade with China and the auto industry." Alexander Burns, Politico
- "A newly energetic and aggressive President Obama went directly after his Republican challenger starting with the first minutes of their second presidential debate Tuesday night, attacking Mitt Romney's business record and accusing him of offering a meek 'me, too' to conservative Republicans in Congress." David Lauter, Los Angeles Times