Obama Won Debate: Poll and Points

Photograph by Scott Eells/Bloomberg

President Barack Obama during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, on Oct. 16, 2012.

The president won one.

Following the second televised debate of President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, 46 percent of the voters viewing it told CNN’s pollsters tonight that Obama won the debate, and 39 percent said Romney won it.

This wasn’t close to the advantage that viewing voters gave Romney surveyed after the first of the presidential debates on Oct. 3 (when 67 percent said Romney won and 25 percent said Obama did). The margin of error is 4.5 percentage points. Yet it represents a win for a president who needed one heading into the second of three encounters before Election Day on Nov. 6.

CBS News conducted its own instant poll of uncommitted voters and found, according to its report on Twitter: 37 percent of those surveyed handing the debate to Obama, 30 percent to Romney and 33 percent calling it a tie. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.

It didn’t take a poll to count the points on the board in the debate tonight.

Obama, who was faulted by voters who viewed the first televised debate on Oct. 3 for a weak performance, took the stage tonight with what adviser Robert Gibbs had promised would be “a different game.” And he played it for 90-plus minutes in an overtime performance.

From the start, Obama tagged his Republican rival with his opposition to the government bailout for the auto industry and called Romney’s five-point economic plan “a one-point plan” – designed to benefit the well-off.

“Not true, Governor,” Obama said of Romney’s contentions, adding that “nobody serious” who has examined Romney’s tax plans has concluded that they “add up.” He suggested that Romney would be “the last one to crack down on China.”

Romney, Obama said, is more “extreme” than President George W. Bush.

“You know, there are some things where Governor Romney is different from George Bush,” Obama said to a question from a voter in the town hall-styled debate. “George Bush didn’t propose turning Medicare into a voucher. George Bush embraced comprehensive immigration reform. He didn’t call for self-deportation.”

“George Bush never suggested that we eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, so there are differences between Governor Romney and George Bush, but they’re not on economic policy. In some ways, he’s gone to a more extreme place when it comes to social policy.”

And when Romney questioned the president’s recognition of terrorism in the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Libya the day afterward in the Rose Garden, the president instructed him: “Get the transcript.”

When the moderator said the president was right, the audience, asked for silence throughout the debate, applauded.

Finally, when Romney said, at the end of the debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, that he will be the president for “100 percent of the people,” Obama reminded him in closing of the closed-door fundraising dinner where Romney had said he’ll never reach 47 percent of the Americans who pay no taxes.

Romney, on the receiving end of more than a dozen direct attacks, got his digs in tonight as well. As for math not adding up, Romney pointed to Obama’s budget deficits. And his most poised remarks focused on the four years that Obama has served as president, suggesting that if Americans don’t want a replay of that they will have to replace the president.

The final debate comes Monday, at 9 pm EDT, at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.

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