CHICAGO (CBS) — There were plenty of hot tempers at Hofstra University on Tuesday at the second presidential debate, as both President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney tried to make a statement.
There are three weeks left until the election, and you could feel it Tuesday night, as both Obama and Romney engaged in several heated exchanges.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports Romney continued the offensive he started in Denver at the first debate, but this time faced a very different opponent, as President Obama took Romney’s best punches and battled back.
The president opened quickly with a one-two punch – taking a shot at Romney’s position on the auto bailout, and – as expected – calling him on his response.
“When Governor Romney said we should let Detroit go bankrupt, I said we’re going to bet on American workers, and the American auto industry, and it’s come surging back,” Obama said.
But Romney defended his stance on the auto industry bailout, saying, “My plan was to have the company go through bankruptcy like 7-Eleven did, and Macy’s, and Continental Airlines, and come out stronger.”
But Obama shot back, “What Governor Romney said just isn’t true. He wanted to take them into bankruptcy without providing them any way to stay open, and we would have lost a million jobs,” Obama said. “His prescription wasn’t going to work.”
Time after time, Obama said Romney’s claims weren’t true, while Romney continued to attack, at one point raising eyebrows by appearing to tell the president to sit down.
“You’ll get your chance in a moment, I’m still speaking,” Romney said as the president stood up to respond to Romney at one point in the debate.
The president was on the attack, too, questioning the cost of the governor’s stance on tax policy.
“The fact that he only has to pay 14 percent on his taxes, when a lot of you are paying much higher, he’s already taken that off the board. Capital gains are going to continue to be at a low rate,” Obama said.
Responding to a question about differences between Romney and former President George W. Bush, Romney said, “I’ll crack down on China. President Bush didn’t.”
That brought another Obama attack.
“Governor, you’re the last person who’s going to get tough on China,” Obama said.
Criticism of embassy security in Libya, and explanations of the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi led to perhaps the angriest exchange.
“The president, the day after that happened, flies to Las Vegas for a political fundraiser, and the next day to Colorado for another event, another political event,” Romney said. “I think these actions taken by a president, and a leader, have symbolic significance.”
But Obama shot back, saying, “The suggestion that anybody on my team – whether the Secretary of State, our U.N. Ambassador, anybody on my team – would play politics or mislead when we’d lost four of our own, governor, is offensive.”
That moment was a damaging one for Romney, who claimed it took the White House two weeks to call the attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya a terrorist attack. Obama noted he called the attack an “act of terror” the day after, a point confirmed by the debate moderator, Candy Crowley.
The general consensus after the first debate was Romney won hands down, but things were different on Tuesday.
Some close to the president called it his best debate ever.
CBS 2’s Mike Parker watched the debate with students at Northwestern University.
Four years ago, Obama swept the college-age vote, winning nearly 70 percent support from those young voters against John McCain.
A new crop of young voters watched Tuesday’s debate at Northwestern University in Evanston, and they were fascinated.
Ari West said, “I think Obama seems more alive, and has come armed with more evidence than he previously had,”
Quentin Helbroner said, “I think it literally is impossible to not improve on his last performance, beyond actually falling off the stage, or not showing up. He’s been much better at responding to the actual questions, and fighting back.”
Megan Joyce said, “I am genuinely surprised at how feisty it’s been. The gloves have really seemed to come off for both candidates, and they keep telling the other person not to interrupt, but then they’ll just go right ahead and interrupt the other person.”
Most of the students who watched the debate seemed to suggest that perhaps the old Obama mojo is working again with the college crowd.
In Aurora, hundreds of Aurora Senior High School students were talking politics, WBBM Newsradio’s Lisa Fielding reports.
More than 100 junior and senior government students at Matea Valley High School gathered to watch the debate.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Lisa Fielding Reports
Most teens say they look forward to casting their vote when they turn 18.
The students say they are concerned about taxes, the environment, abortion, gay marriage and health care.
At the end of the debate, the class took an informal straw poll about who won the debate. President Obama won 116-7.