Obama vs. Romney: What the Pundits Are Saying About Second Debate

Obama Debate Single Shot - P 2012
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Obama Debate Single Shot - P 2012

Most pundits declared Obama the winner, praising his comments on equal pay for women and Libya, but CNN's David Gergen said Romney had the winning strategy by focusing on jobs.

President Obama and Mitt Romney faced off again Tuesday night in their second debate.

The event -- a town meeting format where attendees asked questions about healthcare, women's pay, abortion, immigration, Libya, gun control and other topics -- was moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley and held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. It also came less than two weeks after the first debate between the Democratic incumbent and the Republican hopeful, after which the pundits declared Romney the resounding winner.

But after Tuesday night's debate, that same group mostly declared Obama as the winner.

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“He did today what failed to do at the first debate. He went on the offensive and came out swinging,” said CNN's Wolf Blitzer. “It was a much more contentious debate. There were times when both candidates really went after each other.”

However, Blitzer felt Romney missed a big opportunity to go after his opponent when Obama did not answer a question regarding diplomats in Libya requesting more security ahead of the deadly attack in Benghazi that left four Americans dead. 

Blitzer’s network colleague Gloria Borger took note of Romney's work on the economy, calling it his strong suit.

“Mitt Romney's best moments were focusing on the economic record and saying ‘the middle class has been buried’ and also ‘we don’t have to settle for this.’ Those were key catch phrases.” She also note Obama was “angriest on Libya,” when he called the politicizing of the attacks as “offensive."

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CNN commentator and democratic activist Van Jones predicted that Romney lost ground with women during the debate. When asked about the wage gap between genders, Romney told a story about seeking women for cabinet positions as governor of Massachusetts and found them using a "binder full of women." One included a staffer whom needed to be home on time to prepare dinner for her children.

“The question is equal pay for equal work. The only thing he said was he heard it was a problem when he was 50 years old, and he wanted to make sure mothers got home on time for dinner,” Jones said.

While CNN's David Gergen conceded Obama was “most improved” from the previous debate, he still gave the edge to Romney.

“I think Mitt Romney has had two very good debates back to back….Overall he looks much more like he could be president han he did two weeks ago,” Gergen said. He added that Romney had the “better strategy" by focusing on jobs.

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“He kept coming back to jobs. He was most effective when he talked about that was his priority”

Fox News Channel's Megyn Kelly noted that both candidates were more aggressive than the previous debate.

"They were much more in each other's spaces and faces," she said, adding: "The president saved his '47 percent' comments for his closing remarks, and Romney didn't have time to respond."

She also questioned his "calling Romney a 'good man' on the heels of his top advocates out literally calling Mitt Romney a liar to any reporter with a microphone."

FNC's Brit Hume also said he believes that Obama will be declared the winner simply because he was so much better this time around.

"Obviously, we saw a more aggressive Obama, who was much more on his game," he said. "I thought Romney was basically the same Romney we saw in Denver roughly two weeks ago. The president raised his game to some extent, and so he looked better by comparison. He probably will be declared the winner on most cards."

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Democratic strategist Joe Trippi, meanwhile, questioned Romney's interruptions of moderator Crowley.

"I'm not sure how it played with Romney pushing off Candy Crowley and talking over her," he said.

"I think Mitt Romney had another really good debate, but he gets a lot better when the other guy doesn't show up, and this time Obama showed up and had a better debate, and the Democrats have to be happy. I think both sides have to be happy."

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow also noted Obama's improved performance.

"Obama was noticeably more aggressive and looser," she said, adding: "It was a strong performance by President Obama when he needed a strong performance."

Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, also on MSNBC, said he believes that Obama will be declared the winner, noting that he had the last word in the debate.

"The last word matters in these things, and the president hit [Romney] real hard with his '47 percent' comment," he said, adding that Romney made a "big mistake" by not bringing it up himself earlier. "I think tomorrow people will be declaring a clear victory for the president on the 47 percent comment, Libya and immigration."

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MSNBC's Ed Schultz also praised Obama.

"The president destroyed Mitt Romney on foreign policy tonight totally across the board," he said, adding that the president "shored up the women's vote tonight." He criticized Romney for never saying he supports equal pay for women in the workforce.

Schultz also described Romney as being "disrespectful" to Obama and Crowley.

His network colleague Al Sharpton agreed.

"Clearly, the president did the best performance of his career as a debater," he said. "Romney played the bully, and the president said he was going to stand up to the bully, and the bully got whipped tonight. Benghazi was a knockout, and the '47 percent' comment was a knockout."

On Twitter, Piers Morgan weighed in what he also saw as Obama's strong performance with a quip.

"Obama hasn't looked down ONCE while Romney's speaking. Must have read my tweets during last debate. ?#PMTdebate," he wrote.

Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson had harsh words for moderator Crowley, tweeting “Her many friends in the press will claim otherwise, but honestly when was the last time you saw someone do a worse job moderating a debate?” HBO’s Bill Maher liked Obama’s more aggressive performance, tweeting “Libs should be as giddy as a dancing horse, no more Mr. Nice Guy, more Mr. T.”

The candidates will tackle foreign policy during the third and final presidential debate on Oct. 22 at 9 p.m. ET. CBS’ Bob Schieffer will moderate from Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.