Obama improves performance in second debate

10/17/12 Janelle Irwin
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GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has enjoyed a favorable shift in the polls since edging out President Barack Obama in the first presidential debate two weeks ago. But last night during their second debate in New York, Obama took back some of that thunder by capitalizing on women’s issues.

“When Governor Romney says that we should eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, there are millions of women all across the country, who rely on Planned Parenthood for, not just contraceptive care, they rely on it for mammograms, for cervical cancer screenings. That's a pocketbook issue for women and families all across the country. And it makes a difference in terms of how well and effectively women are able to work.”

The president also claimed Romney would support policies to allow employers to decide whether or not they provided contraceptive coverage for women. In the Affordable Care Act employer-provided health insurance has to include birth control. That mandate covers religious institutions like colleges and hospitals, but not churches. Romney has said he supports an amendment that would let employers opt out of the rule and called it an assault on religious conviction. That wasn’t the tune he was singing last night though.

“Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives. And -- and the -- and the president's statement of my policy is completely and totally wrong.”

A lot of people criticize Romney’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program. Some studies project rising healthcare costs for seniors as high as $11,000 in the first year. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius watched the debate with other Obama supporters at a campaign office in Tampa. She said the Medicare debate is a women’s issue because more women use the guaranteed benefit.

“no longer would you have a guaranteed set of benefits once you turned 65 that you would make sure you don’t go bankrupt if you go sick that take care of you in your senior years and benefits that, actually, you’ve paid for year in and year out with every paycheck that you earn – but you’d have a set amount of money which every economist looking at the program says all it would do is shift costs onto seniors.”

Mitt Romney might have also lost a few points among undecided women voters over the issue of equal pay. The former Massachusetts Governor answered a question about the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act by talking not about salaries, but employment opportunities. He said he had to launch an all out search to find qualified women for the cabinet after he was elected 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.”

Romney’s gaffe made headlines and is the butt of a lot jokes and internet memes. He followed it up by talking about how employers have to be more flexible with women because they may have to leave work early to get home and cook dinner. The entire exchange left a bad taste in the mouth of Obama supporter David Reddy.

“Women are going to see it as the same condescension. He cannot get to where he just sees women as people who are contributing full tilt. It’s not a matter of getting off work early, it’s a matter of when they work until midnight and they still get lower pay.”

Women and middle class Americans are who Romney claims to want to help. He’s said he would extend the Bush era tax cuts for both the rich and the middle class. Romney has also proposed increasing military spending. The question that keeps coming up is: how is he going to pay for it? Obama raised the specter – again – that middle class Americans will.

“If somebody came to you, Governor, with a plan that said, here, I want to spend $7 or $8 trillion, and then we're going to pay for it, but we can't tell you until maybe after the election how we're going to do it, you wouldn't take such a sketchy deal and neither should you, the American people, because the math doesn't add up.”

Obama came out stronger this debate than last. Where he was passive in the first debate, he came out swinging in this one. It’s not clear yet what Obama’s rejuvenated debate performance will do to the polls, but Obama supporters like Steve Runfeldt thought it gave the president the edge.

“Mitt Romney, on the other hand, seemed to cross the line too much and Candy Crowley had to tell him to stop, stop and about a third of the way through I noticed Mitt Romney looked at her and sighed and, like a whimpering dog, went back to his corner like he gave up and I thought, that’s it – President Obama won the debate at this moment.”

But followers on social networking sites like Twitter started calling a possible Obama win when a foreign policy argument took the wind out of Romney’s sails. One voter asked why more security wasn’t sent to Benghazi before the September 11th killings even though they were requested. Romney criticized the president for taking too long to admit that it was an act of terror and not the result of a protest of an American made anti-Muslim film. Obama said he called it an act of terror the very next day.

Romney: “I think interesting the president just said something which -- which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.”

Obama: “That's what I said.”

Romney: “You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror? It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you're saying?”

Obama: “Please proceed governor.”

Romney: “I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.”

Obama: “Get the transcript.”

Crowley: “It -- it -- it -- he did in fact, sir. So let me -- let me call it an act of terror...”

Obama: “Can you say that a little louder, Candy?”

Crowley: “He -- he did call it an act of terror.”

During conversation about that topic, the president said he took full responsibility for what happened in Benghazi. Obama supporter Mitch Turner said that humility was a strong point for the president.

“He came across as genuine and he came across as focused and it seemed to me like Romney was not focused and wasn’t really very genuine in what he was saying.”

The debate also covered immigration. Romney defended his self-deportation idea by saying that it doesn’t mean the government will round people up and start deporting them, but they might want to leave themselves if they can’t find jobs or get healthcare. Obama fired back by saying Romney supports a harsh anti-immigration law in Arizona that allows law enforcement to detain a person if they appear to be an undocumented immigrant. The final debate is Monday at Lynn University in Boca Raton.

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