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Tom Tangney
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Unlike the President Obama's somewhat listless performance in the first debate, he was on the offensive for most of the night Tuesday. (AP Photo/file)

Debates go better when both sides show up

See how much better debates go when both sides show up. Unlike the president's somewhat listless performance in the first debate, he was on the offensive for most of the night Tuesday.

The assumption was that the Town Hall setting was going to make it hard for either side to be aggressive, but the president found a way.

Mitt Romney held his own, but Obama probably won this debate on points. Not as decisively as Romney won the first debate, mind you, but still...

In the first debate, you had a series of Democrats complaining the President missed a lot of opportunities against Romney. Last night, it was the Republicans who were saying that about their candidate.

First and foremost was the exchange on Libya, a topic the GOP thought they had the advantage on.

Romney suggested Obama's administration may have misled Americans over what caused the attack at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last month that killed four Americans, to which Obama had a strong response.

"The day after the attack governor, I stood in the rose garden and I told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror and I also said we're going to hunt down those who committed this crime," said Obama.

"A few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with the families, and the suggestion that anybody in my team, or the Secretary of State, our UN ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we've lost four of our own governor is offensive. That's not what we do. That's not what I do as president, that's not was I do as commander in chief."

There was fire in his eyes, self-righteous anger and indignation.

Then Romney, who looked like he's coming in for the kill, responds:

"I think it's interesting the president just said something which is that on the day after the attack he went into the rose garden and said this was an act of terror, not a spontaneous demonstration," said 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 interjected, "Get the transcript."

"He did in fact sir," said moderator Candy Crowley.

"Can you say that a little louder?" said Obama.

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

Romney continued, "The administration indicated that this was a reaction to a video and was a spontaneous reaction. It took them a long time to say this was a terrorist act by a terrorist group."

Romney eventually got to his point but it wasn't as powerful as expected because he got tripped up a little on Obama's language.

Even without Crowley's intervention, Obama's challenge to "Get the transcript" slowed him down a bit.

Things went much better for Romney when a former Obama voter told the president directly that he was disappointed in him. The GOP would like nothing better than to have this election be a referendum on Obama's first term and this voter provided the ideal platform.

The president started off his response by admitting the country had been through a tough for years.

"But 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 for small business, and I have. I said that I'd end the war in Iraq, and I did. I said we'd refocus attention on those who actually attacked us on 9/11 and we have gone after al Qaeda's leadership like never before, and Osama bin Laden is dead."

The president continued speaking of health care reform, saving the auto industry, and job progress.

"The commitments I've made, I've kept," said Obama. "Those that I haven't been able to keep, it's not for lack of trying and we're going to get it done in a second term."

Then Romney got his chance and he took full advantage of it.

"I think you know better. I think you know these last four years haven't been as good as the president's just described and that you don't feel like you're confident the next four years are going to be much better either. I can tell you that if you are to elect President Obama, you know what you are going to get. You're going to get a repeat of the last four years. We just can't afford four more years like the last four years."

Romney said Obama said 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," said Romney.

"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."

Romney said Obama also said he would put out an immigration plan in his first year, but didn't file a plan.

"This is a president who has not been able to do what he said he'd do," said Romney. "The middle class is getting crushed under the policies of a president who does not understand what it takes to get the economy working again."

Results of a CNN poll pick Obama as the winner, but say Romney did better on the issue of the economy.

With just 20 days left until the election, polls show an extremely tight race nationally. While Republicans have made clear gains in recent days, the president leads in several polls of Wisconsin and Ohio. No Republican has won the White House without winning Ohio.

As the debates unfold, early voting is already under way in many states, and the push to bank as many early ballots as possible is in overdrive.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tom Tangney, KIRO Radio Host, Film & Media Critic
Tom Tangney is the co-host of The Tom and Curley Show on KIRO Radio and resident enthusiast of...everything. As the film and media critic on the Morning News on KIRO Radio, he espouses his love for books, movies, TV, art, pop culture, politics, sports, and Husky football.
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By day, you can hear Tom on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, and by night, he sits in the dark, making snide comments about what he sees on the silver screen.

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