HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. - An aggressive President Barack Obama accused
challenger Mitt Romney of peddling a "sketchy deal" to fix the U.S.
economy and playing politics with the deadly terrorist attack in
Libya in a debate crackling with energy and emotion Tuesday night,
just three weeks before the election.
Romney pushed back hard, saying the middle class "has been
crushed over the last four years" under Obama's leadership and that
23 million Americans are still struggling to find work. He contended
that the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya was part of an
unraveling of the administration's foreign policy.
The president was feistier from the outset than he had been in
their initial encounter two weeks ago.
When Romney said that he had a five-point plan to create 12
million jobs, Obama said, "Gov. Romney says he's got a five-point
plan. Gov. Romney doesn't have a five-point plan. He has a one-
point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play
by a different set of rules."
Obama and Romney disagreed, forcefully and repeatedly - about
taxes, the bailout of the auto industry, measures to reduce the
deficit, energy, pay equity for women and health care as well as
foreign policy across 90 minutes of a town hall-style debate.
Immigration prompted yet another clash, Romney saying Obama had
failed to pursue the comprehensive legislation he promised at the
dawn of his administration, and the president saying Republican
obstinacy made a deal impossible.
Romney gave as good as he got.
"You'll get your chance in a moment. I'm still speaking," the
former Massachusetts governor said at one point while Obama was
midsentence, drawing a gasp from the audience. He said the
president's policies had failed to jump-start the economy and had
cramped energy production.
The open-stage format left the two men free to stroll freely
across a red-carpeted stage, and they did. Their clashes crackled
with energy and tension, and the crowd watched raptly as the two
sparred while struggling to appear calm and affable before a
national television audience.
While most of the debate was focused on policy differences, there
was one more-personal moment, when Obama said Romney had investments
"Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?" Romney
"You know, I don't look at my pension. It's not as big as yours,"
shot back Obama to his wealthier rival.
Obama noted Romney's business background to rebut his opponent's
plans to fix the economy and prevent federal deficits from climbing
ever higher. …