With a huge and factually inaccurate assist from moderator Candy Crowley, President Obama won the moment of the night when he successfully challenged Mitt Romney’s claim that Obama did not call the Benghazi attack an “act of terror” the day after the event (you can read Obama’s Rose Garden transcript here). Post debate polls from both CBS and CNN gave Obama a narrow win overall on the night, 37 percent to 30 percent and 46 percent to 39 percent respectively.
But digging a bit deeper, both polls show that although Romney may have lost the Libya battle, he is winning the economic war. Both polls showed that, by overwhelming margins, voters believe Romney has the better plan to fix the economy. In CNN’s poll, Romney led 58 percent to 40 percent on the economy against Obama. CBS had Romney winning on the economy by an even larger, 31-point margin — 65 percent to 34 percent margin.
The story was no different on MSNBC’s post debate focus group, where three out of four swing voters named Romney the winner on economic issues. “I’m more for Mitt Romney just because I feel like he’s gonna have more of a plan. He is a business man. Businessmen can take care of it. He took care of Massachusetts, I think he can take care of us,” said one female voter. Another female voter who voted for Obama four years ago said, “I really like what Mitt Romney had to say about the economy, about what he is planning on doing in order to change things for us and how President Obama has not really gotten it done in the last four years.” And a male voter said, “I think I’m going to have to vote for Romney and that’s primarily because of the economy. I think that Romney has a better plan and a better track record in what he’s done for the economy.”
And the one voter who did say she liked Obama better on the economy later revealed that social issues were actually the real reason she was voting for Obama. “As a younger voter I think social issues have more of an effect on my vote, and the president’s views on like gay marriage and abortion definitely line up with mine.”
If voters are honest when they tell pollsters that the economy and jobs are the most important issue to them this election, admittedly a big if, then there was really only one clear winner last night: Mitt Romney by a mile.
Washington Examiner Reax
Michael Barone: “This strikes me as one of those presidential debates, like most presidential debates, in which most Democratic voters believe the Democratic candidate won and most Republican voters believe the Republican candidate won.”
Phil Klein: “During tonight’s town hall debate here at Hofstra University, President Obama repeatedly called out Mitt Romney on his tax plan, arguing that the math didn’t add up. But in the spin room following the debate, Obama campaign press secretary Jen Psaki struggled to defend the math in the president’s own deficit plan.”
Sean Higgins: “The reference to “acts of terror” (note that it is plural) appears to be in the context of all such attacks since the original 9/11. Obama does not directly call the Benghazi attack one of those acts. The closest he comes is calling it “this terrible act” – an extremely vague label. In any event, subsequent comments by Obama and other administration officials after the Rose Garden speech continued to perpetuate the notion that this was a demonstration against a Youtube video that went out of control, not an planned attack.”
National Review‘s Rich Lowry: “The big take-away from the debates so far — and the problem President Obama has — is that Mitt Romney has established himself as a plausible alternative with a plausible plan.”
The Weekly Standard‘s Jay Cost: “Romney prosecuted the case against Obama’s record very effectively and got things back to jobs again and again and again. That was extremely effective. … I did not hear much of a vision from Obama. I heard little talk about jobs from him, and he totally botched two questions from people on why they should vote for him when they are now so bummed.”
RedState‘s Erick Erickson: “I think Mitt Romney won the debate, but not by much. He flubbed a few good opportunities to really score decisive blows on the President, but definitely drew more blood.”
Talking Points Memo‘s Josh Marshall: “Romney did well. Obama did better. And increasingly better over the course of the evening.
The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent: “Obama absolutely had to turn in a performance that would make his base happy — and he did that, by demonstrating a willingness to get in Mitt Romney’s face and in his space, and by not flinching from calling out Romney’s lies.”
New York Magazine‘s Jonathan Chait: “President Obama is not a great debater, but in the second presidential debate, he gave his best performance. Mitt Romney came off well, but not nearly as well as he had during the first debate. Obama enjoyed friendly questions from an audience that obviously leaned left.”
Polls: Gallup‘s dailiy tracking poll shows Romney not only beating Obama among likely voters, but it shows him at 50 percent, compared to Obama’s 46 percent.
In Other News
The Wall Street Journal, Militant Suspected in Attack in Libya Remains At Large: The founder of Libya’s Islamist militia Ansar al-Sharia was at the U.S. consulate compound during the deadly attack here, Libyan officials say, but he remains free a week after those allegations were disclosed to Libyan political leaders and U.S. investigators in Tripoli.