WASHINGTON (AP) — Fighting for his political life, President Barack Obama re-emerged in blistering form in an interruption-filled debate rematch, trying to diminish Mitt Romney’s rising stature by accusing him of dishonesty and extremism.
In a confrontational showdown, Romney did well against his suddenly higher expectations and an incumbent who decided to show up with passion this time. Portraying himself as a plausible alternative for struggling Americans, Romney declared: “We don’t have to live like this.”
What millions of voters got was an almost desperate competition of ideas and claims between two men who badly want the job and want to beat each other.
It felt almost nothing like the first, fairly drab debate that Romney won. Both guys were bouncing off their stools.
Obama’s nervous supporters will surely get a boost from his fiercely competitive showing, which in turn could drive up enthusiasm in the get-out-the-vote effort that could decide the election. Playing for undecided voters and women in particular, Obama turned the most straightforward questions from voters into a chance to contrast himself with Romney.
Almost lost, at times, were the town-hall participants who were supposed to play a major role in asking questions.
The candidates got in each other’s space and spoke over each other’s lines in a reflection of the race itself at this point — an intense, deadlocked contest for the future of the nation.
“You’ll get your chance. I’m still speaking,” Romney said during one exchange as the audience in the arena gasped.
“I’m the president,” Obama said when asked about the deadly attack on Americans in Libya. He pointed at Romney and said that suggestion that anyone on his team “would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do.”