Obama on offense in second debate

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by CBS News

As the second presidential debate kicked off Tuesday night, President Obama was quick to go on offense against Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, taking him to task over claims he deemed to be false and accusing him of having a "one-point plan" for the country: "To make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules."

Both candidates were spirited out of the gate, sparring over questions about taxes, job growth, education, and women's health, and engaging in various points in heated exchanges over energy policy and immigration.

Mr. Obama, who was panned in the first debate for a performance that was cast as lackluster and passive, attempted to paint the candidate as out-of-touch with average Americans, and was aggressive in targeting Romney over his "five-point plan" to grow 12 million jobs.

"Governor Romney's says he's got a five-point plan? Governor Romney doesn't have a five-point plan. He has a one-point plan," Mr. Obama said. "And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules. That's been his philosophy in the private sector, that's been his philosophy as governor, that's been his philosophy as a presidential candidate."

"We haven't heard from the governor any specifics beyond Big Bird and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood in terms of how he pays for that," Mr. Obama said. "Governor Romney was a very successful investor. 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."

Romney, meanwhile, defended his tax proposal, combating the charge that his proposal is mathematically impossible.

"Well of course they add up," said Romney, when asked what he would do if they did not. "I was someone who ran businesses for 25 years, and balanced the budget. 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."

Romney did not provide further information regarding the details of his proposal, pivoting instead to an attack of Mr. Obama's record.

"When we're talking about math that doesn't add up, how about $4 trillion of deficits over the last four years, $5 trillion? That's math that doesn't add up," he said. "And then we have his own record, which is we have four consecutive years where he said when he was running for office, he would cut the deficit in half. Instead he's doubled it. We've gone from $10 trillion of national debt, to $16 trillion of national debt. If the president were reelected, we'd go to almost $20 trillion of national debt. This puts us on a road to Greece."

On immigration, Mr. Obama repeatedly targeted Romney for having suggested in the past that imposing a policy of "self-deportation" would serve as an effective way to reduce illegal immigration.

"[Romney's] main strategy during the Republican primary was to say, 'We're going to encourage self-deportation.' Making life so miserable on folks that they'll leave," Mr. Obama said. "He called the Arizona law a model for the nation. Part of the Arizona law said that law enforcement officers could stop folks because they suspected maybe they looked like they might be undocumented workers and check their papers."

"You know what? If my daughter or yours looks to somebody like they're not a citizen, I don't want -- I don't want to empower somebody like that," he added. "We can fix this system in a comprehensive way."

Romney, meanwhile, noted that Mr. Obama has not made good on a campaign promise to implement immigration reform.
"When the president ran for office, he said that he'd put in place, in his first year, a piece of legislation -- he'd file a bill in his first year that would reform our -- our immigration system, protect legal immigration, stop illegal immigration. He didn't do it," Romney said. "He had a Democrat House, a Democrat Senate, super majority in both Houses. Why did he fail to even promote legislation that would have provided an answer for those that want to come legally and for those that are here illegally today?"

The two also sparred over the manner with which the Obama administration reacted to the recent violence in Libya -- and whether or not the president had misled Americans as to the nature of the attacks.

"There were many days that passed before we knew whether this was a spontaneous demonstration, or actually whether it was a terrorist attack," Romney said. "And there was no demonstration involved. It was a terrorist attack and it took a long time for that to be told to the American people. Whether there was some misleading, or instead whether we just didn't know what happened, you have to ask yourself why didn't we know five days later when the ambassador to the United Nations went on TV to say that this was a demonstration. How could we have not known?"

The president aggressively disputed that assessment, arguing that he "stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people in the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror and I also said that we're going to hunt down those who committed this crime."

The day after the attacks in Libya, Mr. Obama said in the Rose Garden that "no acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for."

"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," Romney said.

"That's what I said," Mr. Obama replied.

Romney continued to dispute his characterization, ultimately leading mnoderator Candy Crowley to step in.

"He did call it an act of terror," Crowley said, noting too that "it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea there being a riot out there about this tape to come out."

In his closing remarks, Mr. Obama recalled Romney's controversial remarks about the "47 percent" of Americans he said were "dependent" on government and saw themselves as "victims."

The debate has been touted as a high-stakes affair for both candidates, as Mr. Obama attempts to make up ground lost after the first matchup, and Romney tries to hold on to a recent wave of momentum.

In the 13 days since the two men last faced off, Romney has seen a much-needed boost in the polls, changing the dynamic in a race that had previously looked all but over for the former Massachusetts governor.

Now, amid a panoply of polls showing a wide range of often disparate results, the main - and possibly only - clear consensus is that the race is very close.

Tonight's debate, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., gives both candidates the chance to hammer home their messages in front of a nationally-televised audience of tens of millions of voters. The town hall-style format will also allow them to connect directly with uncommitted voters, who will be asking them questions throughout the course of the 90-minute event.

Just a handful of the 82 audience members, all of whom were selected by the Gallup Organization to represent a variety of socio-economic, racial and political backgrounds, will be able to ask the candidates questions.

And despite pressure from both campaigns to "not ask follow-up questions," moderator Candy Crowley promised she won't be afraid to insert herself into the conversation at tonight's town hall debate.

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