President Obama Flips The Script, Takes The Fight To Romney

It was a story in “The Onion” that perhaps best summed up things for President Barack Obama as he headed into Tuesday night’s second presidential debate against Republican hopeful Mitt Romney.

The satirical piece went on about how the president was excited about participating in his “first” debate, a clear shot at Obama’s listless performance in the first meeting between the presidential rivals that changed the trajectory of the race and left Democratic supporters panicking.

No such issues for Obama the second time around at Hofstra University as he forcefully and deftly attacked the former Massachusetts governor on a variety of issues, including the economy, taxes, energy, women’s rights, immigration and foreign policy.

Showing the kind of passion, confidence and mastery of detail that helped propel him into the White House four years ago, Obama succeeded in successfully attacking the many contradictions in Romney’s record to keep him on his heels.

The night was a decidedly different one from the first debate in Denver, where Romney is widely acknowledged as having beaten an Obama who was nowhere near as aggressive in responding to Romney’s attacks.

The heated exchanges made tensions between the two men inevitable, so much so the they approached one another during one exchange as if they were about to start swinging.

Obama saved his best bombshell for last, teeing off on Romney for the secretly-recorded comments he made in May in which he essentially disparaged “47 percent” of Americans who don’t pay federal income taxes as lazy moochers who don’t take responsibility for their lives while considering themselves victims entitled to government largesse.

The president had earlier called Romney’s tax proposals a “sketchy deal” for the American people, and sought to link the GOP nominee to his unpopular predecessor in George W. Bush.

Obama frequently made reference to Romney’s immense personal wealth in an effort to bolster the image of the GOP standard-bearer as an out-of-touch aristocrat.

“No, I haven’t looked at my pension,” he said in one exchange with Romney, “It’s not as big as yours, so it doesn’t take that long.”

For his part, Romney emphasized Obama’s own failings as president and again adopted the centrist tone he had projected in his first meeting with Obama.

“Why am I lowering taxes on the middle-class? Because under the last four years, they’ve been buried,” Romney said, alluding to a comment made recently by Vice-President Joe Biden saying the middle class had been “buried” over the last four years.

And Romney didn’t hesitate to scold Obama, who walked toward Romney during one exchange over energy: “You’ll get your chance in a moment, I’m still speaking.”

The debate also featured Romney and Obama’s first direct exchange on the topic of last month’s terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, which left four Americans dead, including a U.S. ambassador.

Obama seemed to flash anger toward the former Massachusetts governor, as he turned and stared down Romney, calling the suggestion that his administration would play politics with the attack “offensive.”

“That’s not how a commander in chief operates,” he said of Romney’s accusation. “You don’t turn national security into a political issue.”

Romney argued that Obama had left the White House to go campaigning shortly after the attack, and accused the president of having failed to label the attack in Libya an act of terror.

When moderator Candy Crowley intervened and contended Obama had actually done so, members of the audience applauded – in violation of debate rules.

The debate was the second of three presidential debates this fall. The two candidates will meet one final time before the upcoming Nov. 6 Election Day when they face off this coming Monday in Florida for a foreign policy-focused debate.

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