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Obama-Romney's Second Debate: Who Won?

President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney squared off in the second presidential debate on Tuesday, Oct. 16. Here's how Massachusetts Republicans and Democrats reacted.

Editor's note: This article was corrected to refer to the consulate in Libya on Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 8:40 a.m.

The attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya that led to the death of four Americans became the flashpoint in Tuesday night's second presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney: that's the major finding of the Red and Blue Commonwealth flash polls sent out to local politicos immediately after the debate ended on Thursday night.

Obama and Romney faced off on Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York in a town hall format, with CNN's Candy Crowley moderating a debate that covered both domestic and foreign policy.

Of the 17 local influential Democrats who took the poll after the debate ended, 13 of them (76.5 percent) voted that Obama won by a large margin and four (23.5 percent) voted that the president won by a slim margin.

Local influential Republicans were more varied in their assessment of Romney's performance. Of 25 who took the poll, eight (32 percent) voted that Romney won by a wide margin, 12 (48 percent) voted Romney won by a slim margin; three (12 percent) voted neutral and two (8 percent) voted Obama won by a slim margin.

The two sides agreed on one thing: Most of the Republicans voted that Obama would be declared the consensus "winner" by the national media, as did most of the Democrats who took the poll.

Of the Republicans, 15 voted Obama would be declared the winner by a slim margin and 1 voted by a wide margin. Five voted neutral and four voted Romney would be declared the winner by a slim margin.

Nine Democrats voted Obama would be declared the winner by a wide margin, seven voted by a slim margin and one voted neutral.

Libya Attack Characterization Polarizes Republicans, Democrats

Where the two sides disagreed was their assessment of an exchange between Obama, Romney and Crowley regarding the president's response to the attack in Libya on U.S. embassy employees, which left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens and Winchester native Glen Doherty.

During the debate, after Obama said that the day after the attack he had called it an act of terror during his remarks in the White House Rose Garden, Romney asked him to reiterate that statement. 

"It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you're saying?" Romney said. "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 replied, "Get the transcript," and Crowley said to Romney, "He did in fact, sir."

The passage in question from Obama's remarks on Sept. 12:

Of course, yesterday was already a painful day for our nation as we marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks. We mourned with the families who were lost on that day. I visited the graves of troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hallowed grounds of Arlington Cemetery, and had the opportunity to say thank you and visit some of our wounded warriors at Walter Reed. And then last night, we learned the news of this attack in Benghazi. 

As Americans, let us never, ever forget that our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it, to stand up for it, and in some cases, lay down their lives for it. Our country is only as strong as the character of our people and the service of those both civilian and military who represent us around the globe.

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. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.

The following Sunday, Sept. 16, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice went on Sunday morning talk shows and characterized the attack as a "spontaneous reaction," a remark weeks later disowned by the State Department.

A number of local Republicans pointed to the exchange as a moment that would stand out in the minds of conservatives in Massachusetts, which one Republican called "Obama lying on Libya." Others cited Crowley's statement "He did in fact, sir," with one Republican writing, "The moderator incorrectly citing the Rose Garden transcript to squelch Romney's Libya argument" and another writing "when Candy Crowley lied and said Obama called Benghazi an act of terror."

Conversely, Democrats also pointed to the exchange as a moment that would stand out in the minds of liberals and progressives in Massachusetts, with one Democrat writing "Obama offended by Romney's talk about Libya" and another writing "the president humbling Romney on Libya."

Obama's Record vs. Romney's Record

As for other moments that stood out, the answers ran the gamut for both Democrats and Republicans, but several focused on each candidate's record.

Democrats pointed to Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts, with one writing that Romney was "taking false credit for education success" in Massachusetts and another highlighting Obama saying that Romney stood in front of the coal-burning Salem Harbor Power Station and saying that the plant kills people.

Other Democrats wrote about Romney's rheotric on the campaign trail and during the debate, with one writing that the governor was "backtracking his tax plan" and another pointed to Obama bringing up Romney's comments about the "47 percent." 

Republicans pointed to Obama's record, from the Keystone Pipeline project to the deficit and unemployment. One Republican wrote that "facts are facts when it comes to 23 million unemployed, doubling of gas prices, deficits of $16 trillion, incomes dropped," while another pointed to Romney saying that Obama promised to cut the deficit in half and "he did nothing and it increased two-fold."

Other Republicans wrote that Romney "hammering home all of Obama's failtures" put the president on the defensive. 

"President Obama can not defend his record so attacks and lies without compunction, when challenged he becomes angry and attacks Governor Romney," one Republican wrote.

Both Republicans and Democrats were fairly confident that their candidate's debate performance would increase the number of votes he gets in Massachusetts.

Five Republicans voted they strongly agreed Romney's performance would increase his Bay State vote total, 11 somewhat agreed, five were neutral, three somewhat disagree and one strongly disagreed.

Eight Democrats voted they strongly agreed Obama's performance would increase his Massachusetts vote total, eight somewhat agreed and one was neutral.

And at least one poll taker, a Democrat, was left wanting more from both Obama and Romney.

"I would like to see candidates answer the questions that are asked," they wrote.

Who do you think won the debate? Tell us in the comments below.

Red and Blue Commonwealth Surveys

Our surveys are not a scientific, random sample of any larger population, but rather an effort to listen to a group of influential local Republican activists, party leaders, candidates and elected officials in Massachusetts. All of these individuals have agreed to participate in Massachusetts' Patch's surveys, although not all responded to this story's questions.

Patch will be conducting Red Commonwealth and Blue Commonwealth surveys throughout the 2012 election season in hopes of determining the true sentiment of conservatives and liberals on the ground in Massachusetts. If you are an activist, party leader or elected official and would like to take part in periodic surveys that last just a few minutes, please contact Associate Regional Editor Daniel DeMaina at danield@patch.com.

Mike October 22, 2012 at 08:39 PM
Saul, not to revive long dead civics lessons, but before filibuster and cloture reform in 2010, it only took a handful of filibustering Senators to block legislation -- despite a Democratic majority. The rules have existed since the founding of the republic to prevent a "tyranny of the majority," which is why the Senate of the 111th Congress had the most number of filibusters ever. So, by any measure, the Republicans were intentionally obstructionist from 2009-2010. They would argue that they were doing it for noble purposes; others would say they were doing it to prevent Obama from gaining any traction. Remember that with the economy struggling to its feet, with jobs legislation and other reforms stagnating in Congress, the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, said his party's "single most important job" was to defeat Obama in 2012. Not to get people working again. Not to reform entitlements. Not to bolster business. The main priority was to throw a wrench into the wheels of government to give Obama a rougher road to re-election. That said volumes about the party...
saul glick October 22, 2012 at 08:49 PM
OK Mike. But why did the dems lose the house in midterm elections, and lose nearly all the Democratic senators also. Nothing to do with fillabusters and all that. It was simply that the dems screwed if up the first 2 years. The voters saw what was happening and did somethong about it.
Bob October 22, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Kate, the "no new taxes" pledge was not all to Norquist. That is a strawman the Democrats use to fog the argument. In fact President Obama said "the last thing you want to do is raise taxes in the middle of a recession". He then tried to gin his base and propose taxes on only the wealthy knowing they would not pass. It was his out with the base and frankly the epitome of playing politics. Read all points and decide for yourself what is the best.
Bob October 22, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Mike, Obama's 4 budgets have gone down in the Senate something like 394-0. His "jobs" bill was defeated by Democrats voting against it then joining with Republican's to pass the good parts. His HC bill forced companies to file 1099's for every expenditure over $600 (what that has to do with HC is beyond ANYONE!). Pelosi famously stated "you have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it"! HUH? And you question why Republican's and Blue Dog Democrats have put the brakes on this run away disaster? The House and Senate are supposed to exert checks and balances on the WH. When the WH goes off and tries to pass legislation that will hurt jobs, it is their legal and moral duty to filibuster and anything else legally that they can do to stop the bad legislation. While the economy was struggling to regain it's footing the Democrats rammed through HC reform which hurt jobs and the economy. They took their eye off the ball and jumped the shark. They went for social engineering instead of responsible legislating.
kate lipton October 22, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Well, thanks Bob. I have a problem with any representative of our government pledging to a lobbyist. I also don't think the Democrats created Grover Norquist. He might be a straw but not that kind as you suggest. I have also read that the Bush tax cuts helped to get us in the mess we are in especially with 2 wars going on. I have spent the past week trying to find out as much as I could to decide who to vote for. And I just cannot get over the fact that Congress deliberately hurt the American public to further their own ambitions. Actually, realizing this I feel like I have been sucker punched. Since everyone admits "trickle down" tax policy doesn't do squat, I have a hard time understanding why high income people should get additional tax breaks at the expense of people like me. To me anyway it seems like goverment is acting UnAmerican. I don't know much about the Dems but I am really beginning to be disgusted with the Republicans.
Mike October 22, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Hi Bob, I've seen that vote tally quoted before and it's a nifty bit of misinformation. Here's a bit more background: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/05/house-and-senate-unanimously-reject-obama-budgets-or-do-they/ Your point about health care already hurting jobs and the economy is a bit of odd fortune telling since most of the provisions haven't gone into effect. Cheers!
Mike October 22, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Saul, actually....the midterm elections proved that people are far less smart than we think. Some of our less, um, savvy neighbors in the south and midwest responded to the election of a "Muslim communist from Kenya" by suddenly deciding that government was EVIL and BAD and must be changed at any cost, especially to common sense. Stir in a good bit of racial animus and general fear and --poof! -- the Tea Party arrives. Right-wing sheep are just are easy to fleece as left-wing sheep.
Mike October 22, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Bob, actually that's not quite true. Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge is bad policy at its worst. It's a bludgeon to try to force legislators into a litmus test of willingness to tax. But it also counts things such as sunsetting tax cuts as tax increases, so that any legislators that are considering letting the Bush-era cuts elapse without renewal (which is why they contained a sunset provision to begin with!) is branded as a tax raiser. It's silly. Romney refused to sign the pledge in 2002, noting that he wouldn't be restricted by a pice of paper and would need flexibility to govern. (So as governor, he didn't raise taxes..but raised fees and cut local aid to towns so that they would raise property taxes and other fees.) By 2007, he flip-flopped and caved in to Norquist.
Vincent DiRico October 22, 2012 at 11:44 PM
ya, Mitt's talking points so I guess you have nuthin, I wrote the words myself, I listen, I understand and can write ;) I think Zandi may indicate a bit more jobs then I first stated but clearly not 250k per moth the whole time. Given the Zandi repudiation (see below) it is foolish to think the next 4 years would be different under the same failed leader. - Economic growth remains near a lackluster 2%. - September's drop in the jobless rate overstates the improvement in the job market, but it is slowly improving. - The pace of job creation has remained fairly steady at around 150,000 per month since job growth resumed in 2010. - Hiring remains slow in part because real estate is still depressed but mostly because businesses are uncertain about the future of fiscal policy. - Growth will pick up late in 2013, assuming policymakers address fiscal issues in a reasonable way. WHO failed to lead on the fiscal issues, debt reduction, ... Mr 0!
Vincent DiRico October 22, 2012 at 11:47 PM
YES, a message was sent in 2010 as a result of Mr 0's actions. Did you read the links? did I suggest you take NO ONEs word and do a bit of reading? you only hear what you want to hear, are you sure you are not among the "the average person does not know what is going on")? good luck.
Vincent DiRico October 22, 2012 at 11:49 PM
yup, Mike thinks Mr 0 is going to lose so he pulls the best dem card, dem dementia to the max!
Bob October 22, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Mike, those were votes to take up his budget in the Senate. All went down in flames. 4 years and zero budgets. It is over 1000 days since the country had a budget. No problem, it's just in the Constitution. The HC bill has been in affect in pieces since it was passed. Look at all the waivers they have been passing out to their union buddies.
Bob October 22, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Mike it is true. Any raise in taxes is a tax increase. Norquist was a strawman that many refused to rightfully sign up for. The fact is letting the Bush tax cuts expire is a tax raise.
Vincent DiRico October 23, 2012 at 12:42 AM
"why high income people should get additional tax breaks at the expense of people like me" Washington does not have a tax problem, Washington has a SPENDING problem! Look into how much $ the Buffet rule would generate. If YOU listen you will hear Mr 0 say "I think we should take some of the $ we are saving on the wars and use it to build here at home". Question: sound good, you on board, full steam ahead? Reality: the $ we'll save not fighting the wars is $ we do not have, it would have been borrowed $! How is that for a "sucker punch"?
kate lipton October 23, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Vincent, The sucker punch is now while cutting programs that benefit the average American, the Republicans want to increase the Military Budget - probably get us in a war with Iran to boot. Bush's tax cuts did not work and do not work. If the republicans really cared about this country they would have left the tax policies of Bill Clinton alone. No one in their right mind would have given tax cuts with two wars going on. You know what - I think it was deliberate to destroy all effective programs in this country. The Republicans have basically bankrupted this country and with the tax policies they are proposing they are trying to move in for the kill.
Vincent DiRico October 23, 2012 at 01:10 AM
given you statements you are not being objective, you know how you intend to vote so why the guise?
John October 23, 2012 at 02:27 AM
right back at you Vin. Why the guise?
John October 23, 2012 at 02:31 AM
so vinny, what you are saying is you are ok with all this spending, as ong as it doesn't happen in this country? or it's ok if it enriches halliburton? That's not patriotic.
Vincent DiRico October 23, 2012 at 02:34 AM
halliburton -> WOW, dem dementia, I am sorry for you
Vincent DiRico October 23, 2012 at 02:41 AM
there is no guise on my part, I shared my findings and links for kate to read on her own, if you can read you should see above I suggested she take no ones word and read what do you have to offer except try to score a gotcha moment? oh wait it is halliburton -> REALLY?
Vincent DiRico October 23, 2012 at 02:53 AM
on loopholes: Mitt does not subscribe to the "my way or the highway" mentality that doomed Mr 0 from day one. Mr 0's only hope -> Flashback: Obama: "You Make a Big Election About Small Things ... www.youtube.com/watch?v=B18lXQDGwpg "If you can't beat your opponent's ideas, you distort those ideas -- maybe you just make some up! If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as somebody people should run away from. You make big elections about small things."
kate lipton October 23, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Hi Vincent, If people do not agree with your premise such as "The problem is spending" then I am not being objective according to you. You imply the problem is that government is too big unless it has to do with my rights over my own body. I believe in R &D, medical research and a strong investment in education. I am not keen on another war. You justify Haliburton and scream about unemployed people on food stamps who do not have an alternative at present. Now the funny thing is that I am distantly related to Eisenhower. So yes, I have always been pretty much voting Republican. I decided that this election I was not going to vote blindly and used my vacation to read everything I could get my hands on. This present mentality of the Republican Party is repulsive to me. Thank you for helping me to come to a decision. Thanks again and back to work.
Vincent DiRico October 23, 2012 at 03:10 AM
WOW, happy reading
PA Hickey October 23, 2012 at 03:21 AM
May Romney pamper you, Miss Lipton, if he is your heartfelt choice. I just hope you don't eat at Mexico Lindo before you go.
PA Hickey October 23, 2012 at 03:28 AM
hilarious.
Joe Veno October 23, 2012 at 10:27 AM
Romney won it.
Leonardo DaVinci October 23, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Bloomberg: Obama Won Final Presidential Debate, CBS: Scores it a clear a clear victory for Obama, CNN: Obama won last night's debate on Foreign Policy, Huffinton Post: Obama won final debate 48% to 35%, Wall St. Journal: Obama won, instant poll reveals, NBCNEWS.com: Obama beat Romney in final debate. Obama 73%-----Romney 27% On and on and on it goes. What are you guys smokin?
Vincent DiRico October 23, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Mr 0 was: mean, petulant, not likeable, ... Mitt-mentum continues! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6URuvgL2CKA Dean Reynolds held a focus group in Ohio on CBS News, which Mitt Romney won with a clear majority (October 23, 2012).
Vincent DiRico November 06, 2012 at 01:29 AM
Mr 0 and Ms Cowley lied during the second debate, this is video that did not air, conducted on 9/12/2012 Mitt-mentum! http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50134495n&tag=mg;60minutes KROFT: Mr. President, this morning you went out of your way to avoid the use of the word terrorism in connection with the Libya Attack, do you believe that this was a terrorism attack? OBAMA: Well it’s too early to tell exactly how this came about, what group was involved, but obviously it was an attack on Americans. And we are going to be working with the Libyan government to make sure that we bring these folks to justice, one way or the other. KROFT: It’s been described as a mob action, but there are reports that they were very heavily armed with grenades, that doesn’t sound like your normal demonstration. OBAMA: As I said, we’re still investigating exactly what happened, I don’t want to jump the gun on this. But your right that this is not a situation that was exactly the same as what happened in Egypt. And my suspicion is there are folks involved in this. Who were looking to target Americans from the start. So we’re gonna make sure that our first priority is to get our folks out safe, make sure our embassies are secured around the world and then we are going to go after those folks who carried this out.
Ron November 06, 2012 at 01:49 AM
How could anyone in our military or any parent of anyone serving in our military vote for Obama after what we've learned in the past 8 weeks, largely due to hard work and professional journalism of Fox News. CBS is embarrassed due to their unprofessionalism. They should be investigated! This from another parent who's son lost his life in Benghazi. Goes unreported by the Obama re-election committee (ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN). http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/nov/02/tp-families-differ-on-us-response/ This administration should graciously walk away. If they can't represent their office professionally get out!

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