President Barack Obama criticized Mitt Romney for opposing the bailout of the U.S. auto industry and repeatedly challenged the truth of the Republican’s statements as the two met for a second debate.
“What Governor Romney said just isn’t true,” Obama said after the Republican presidential nominee said he wanted the auto industry to go through the same type of bankruptcy experienced by other major companies and said that Obama, in the bailout, actually took the auto companies bankrupt.
Obama said Romney’s plan was to take General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC “into bankruptcy without providing them with any way to stay open, and we would have lost 1 million jobs.”
The two rivals often interrupted each other and circled each other on stage as moderator Candy Crowley of CNN tried to keep the debate on track. As Romney went after Obama by saying that his administration had cut oil production, Obama interrupted several times, saying “not true, Governor Romney,” or “it’s just not true.”
The interjections spurred Romney to say, “you’ll get your chance in a moment -- I’m still speaking,” drawing a gasp from the debate audience, which had been told to stay quiet.
Both candidates pledged that their overall economic plans would create more U.S. jobs after the opening question in the debate’s town-hall format came from a college student who was concerned about future employment.
“More debt and less jobs, I’m going to change that,” Romney said of Obama’s record. “I know what it takes to create good jobs again.”
Obama, who was criticized for not laying out a clear vision during the Oct. 3 debate between the two, began by telling the student, “your future is bright.”
The debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, has taken on added urgency for Obama after polls showed he lost the first showdown, giving Romney’s campaign a surge of energy and gains in national and state polls. The two candidates took questions tonight from undecided voters.
Romney said he wanted to bring tax rates down and simplify the tax code. In the process, he floated the idea of capping deductions at $25,000. Earlier, he had suggested $17,000.
Obama went after Romney for proposing tax cuts while saying he would reduce the federal deficit, without giving specifics. Referring to Romney’s history as a private equity executive, Obama said he wouldn’t have taken such a “sketchy deal” without details.
“And neither should you, the American people, because the math doesn’t add up,” Obama said.
Romney countered, “of course they add up,” and said Obama was misconstruing his plan.
The two also clashed on social issues, with Obama saying Romney would let employers make decisions about whether or not contraception should be covered through insurance for women.
“Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives, and the president’s statement of my policy is completely and totally wrong,” Romney said.
Obama went on to say that Romney’s stances on issues such as Medicare, immigration and federal funding for Planned Parenthood took him beyond the stances of former Republican President George W. Bush. “In some ways, he’s gone to a more extreme place,” Obama said.
Voters in 11 states, including the battlegrounds of Iowa and Ohio, already have been casting ballots for the Nov. 6 election. By week’s end, four of the nine most competitive states, the so-called battlegrounds, will have early, in-person voting under way -- and that’s before the final Oct. 22 debate.
“With early voting you get to decide what day Election Day is,” said David Primo, a political science professor at the University of Rochester in New York. Another poor performance by Obama might mean “voters who are undecided decide they’ve heard enough and cast a ballot against him in an early voting state.”
Coming into tonight’s debate, voters were divided as to which candidate would win, with 41 percent picking Obama and 37 percent choosing Romney, according to an Oct. 12-14 Pew Research Center national poll. Before the first debate, voters by a margin of 51 percent to 29 percent expected Obama to prevail.
The town-hall style debate features questions from the type of undecided voters getting increasing focus with the early- voting process.
“Certainly the pool is shrinking, but it’s a target-rich pool,” said Michael McDonald, a professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, who studies early voting. “The fish the campaigns would like to catch, those persuadable voters, they’re still swimming in the pool.”