U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney squared off on the economy, energy and foreign policy during their second debate of the campaign, taking questions from undecided voters during a town hall-style meeting at New York’s Hofstra University.
Romney attacked the president’s record of the last four years, saying he had “doubled” the deficit and did not accomplish what he said he would do.
He said that by now we’d have unemployment at 5.4 percent. The difference between where it is and 5.4 percent is 9 million Americans without work. I wasn’t the one that said 5.4 percent. This was the president’s plan – didn’t get there. He said he would have by now put forward a plan to reform Medicare and Social Security because he pointed out they’re on the road to bankruptcy. He would reform them. He’d get that done. He hasn’t even made a proposal on either one,” he said.
The president fired back, saying he has kept most of his commitments, and he vowed that the ones he has not kept were not for “a lack of trying.”
“Four years ago I told the American people, and I told you, I would cut taxes for middle class families, and I did. I told you I’d cut taxes on small businesses and I have. I said I would end the war in Iraq, and I did. I said that we would refocus attention on those who actually attacked us on 9-11, and we have gone after al-Qaida’s leadership like never before and Osama bin Laden is dead,” he said.
The two also battled over plans to pull the U.S. out of its economic slump in the next four years. Obama told Romney his plan to keep tax cuts for the wealthy will hurt the economy.
“If somebody came to you, governor, with a plan that said, ‘Here I want to spend $7 or $8 trillion, and we’re going to pay for it but we can’t to tell you how until after the election how we’re going to do it,’ you wouldn’t have taken such a sketchy deal, and neither should you, the American people, because the math doesn’t add up,” he said.
However, Romney said his own tax plan would lead to job growth and a balanced budget.
“Of course they add up. I was someone who ran businesses for 25 years and balanced the budget,” he said. “I ran the Olympics and balanced the budget. I ran the state of Massachusetts as a governor, to the extent any governor does, and balanced the budget all four years. When we’re talking about math that doesn’t add up, how about $4 trillion of deficits?”
The two presidential contenders also focused on immigration, the attack on the Libyan consulate, and the country’s energy policy.
The governor said he would not grant amnesty to illegal immigrants. He said he wants the system for legal immigration to be streamlined so that a would-be immigrant would not need a lawyer to emigrate, and he called for more green cards for skilled workers.
The president responded he has done everything he can to fix the immigration system for those trying to come to the country legally. He also said he does not want to go after students who have lived in the country for years or people who came to the United States just to feed their families.
On Libya, Romney accused the president of taking two weeks to tell the American people that the attack on the consulate that killed the U.S. ambassador and three others was an act of terrorism. He also said the president continued on the campaign trail rather than focusing on the September 11 attack.
The president said he called the Benghazi attack an act of terrorism on the following day. He said the suggestion that anyone in his government would use the violence in Libya to play politics or mislead the American people is offensive.
Romney said oil and gas production on federal land is down because of fewer permits granted by the Obama administration. The president denied this and said permit holders were not taking the opportunities to drill. He accused Romney of planning to let oil companies write U.S. energy policy.
Analysts say Romney delivered the stronger performance in their first debate earlier this month.
In what appears to be a result of the first debate, the latest USA Today/Gallop poll released Monday shows the former Massachusetts governor leading President Obama by four percentage points among likely voters in the nation’s top 12 battleground states.
The survey found the Republican nominee has pulled within one point of Obama among women who are likely voters. He is leading the president by eight points among men likely to vote in those swing states.