Gavel Media’s immediate reactions to the political theater surrounding the second presidential debate held at Hofstra University. The undecided voter reigned supreme in the town hall format.
After a lackluster showing in the first debate, in which many pundits and voters felt that the president had clearly lost, Obama immediately struck back against his Republican challenger. To the delight of his own worried base, Obama repeatedly challenged many of Mitt Romney's assertions from start to finish.
Obama called Romney's five-point plan a one-point plan. The two candidates clashed repeatedly on the topic of energy production on federal lands.
No marks by Romney went unchallenged. The most effective example occurred during the debate's final question. Obama closed strongly, winning the last word and perhaps the debate as a whole, by calling Romney out on his now infamous 47 percent comments--something the president had seemingly forgotten about during the first debate.
Romney seemed too eager to clash with Obama. This made his performance seem off-balance. Although Romney was eager for confrontation, he took his time to clarify that he did have money overseas when Obama asked him about his investments in Chinese companies.
Romney’s awkwardness was compounded he discussed illegal immigration. He yet again mentioned his father being born in Mexico but the circumstances of his father’s birth – George Romney was born to American parents in a Mormon community – served as no help to his overall argument.
In a move that recalled the long primary fights, Romney called on the moderator, Candy Crowely of CNN, to give him more time to speak when Obama seemed to have overstepped his boundaries. Crowely fact-checked Romney on air, and told the national TV audience that Obama’s retelling of events regarding the Libya embassy attack was accurate, bringing Romney further off of his game.
Women’s issues return to the fray
In another reversal of previous debate fortunes, the topic of women’s issues was brought back into the spotlight, after being largely ignored at the first presidential debate.
Obama reminded voters that the first bill he signed into law as president was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which allowed for women to properly file suit regarding paycheck discrimination. Romney attempted to remind voters that he would be an ally for them as well, declaring that he had fought for women in Massachusetts, and had “binders full of women” from which he pulled qualified women for his cabinet.
Within minutes of the comment a Facebook page entitled “Binders Full of Women- I Have Them” was created and now has more than 300,000 likes.
The town hall format led to a much more combative debate
Unencumbered by podiums and the ability to hide behind them, both candidates were able to challenge one another directly on many issues. At one point, as Romney was making a measure about the Obama's energy policy, Obama rose and directly started walking towards his challenger.
Neither candidate backed down and began to talk over one another. They maintained fierce eye contact. The circling Obama and Romney made as they debated made it clear that the brief handshake exchanged at the beginning of the night would be the only amicable tradeoff between these two.
The mythical undecided voter played another huge role
Even after being lampooned by Saturday Night Live earlier this month, the undecided voter played a crucial role in the debate’s makeup. The questioners, all citizens unsure of who to vote for in less than three weeks, sometimes showed that the comedy sketch had some truth to it.
A man’s question basically boiled down to, “I voted for you three years ago Mr. President, but I don’t know if I should again.” A woman mentioned former President George W. Bush. The questions may have been weak, but for that fabled 4 to 5 percent of the electorate that has not made up its mind yet, this night was especially targeted for them.