President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney sparred for the second time Tuesday night in a townhall debate. Mr. Romney was widely considered to have won the first match, so we asked our panel of Canadians living in the U.S. who won last night's contest.
One controversial exchange had Mr. Romney accuse Mr. Obama of not referring to the September attack on the Libyan embassy as an act of terror. Mr. Obama countered that he had used the word "terror" in a White House speech the day after, which was confirmed by the debate moderator Candy Crowley.
This is part of our U.S. Election 2012: Canadians in America series – expats talking about life and politics south of the border.
David Levine, lawyer in New York City from Toronto:
Mr. Obama returned to form tonight. I thought the most brilliant moment was when Mr. Romney thought he had Mr. Obama on the ropes with regards to the Benghazi attack. He thought he caught Mr. Obama in a lie. You could see it on his face as he tried to badger the President about when the President had first referred to the attack as a terror attack. And then he looked so deflated when the moderator stepped in and corrected him. This moment was, for me, the highlight of the debate.
Michelle Curry, stay-at-home mother in Baltimore, Md., from Winnipeg:
A lot of people are saying the Libya comments were the highlight. I would just like to make a point on this if I may.
I watched really closely how this whole thing has played out because my husband is a soldier and it's always scary to have too much "job security" (as my husband calls it) because that increases his chances of him going downrange and going downrange increases his chances of coming home not himself, or not coming home at all, especially in new conflicts. I am one of the lucky ones whose husband doesn't have crippling injuries or PTSD, but I know lots that aren't so lucky.
So when I heard Mr. Romney's comments after the incident in Libya it scared me. He had his finger on the trigger and was ready to pull before he even knew what happened. The military can't have that, the service men and women can't have that, the families related to those service men and women can't have that. We need a Commander-in-Chief that is well versed on the world, who appoints people who are well versed on the Middle East, and takes a measured approach.
Going off half-cocked the way Mr. Romney did is dangerous. Not understanding protocol and using a volatile political situation to try and get ahead is underhanded and irresponsible. I am curious what commitment Mr. Romney if any has made to the U.S. military, what his plans are should new conflicts arise and if he has ever spent any time with any service men and women and how he feels a military that has bore the brunt of a 10-year war (that is still ongoing with soldiers dying in action) will be able to handle jumping into another conflict.
Carla Swanson, who lives and works in Big Lake, Minn., from Saskatoon:
Mr. Romney said "We don't have to live like this," "This isn't what a recovery looks like" and "We just can't afford four more years like the last four years." These were powerful statements that resonate with voters.
Andrew Grimson, a researcher in Hanover, N.H., from southern Saskatchewan:
Although I have lived and worked in the U.S. for 17 years, this will be the first time I am able to vote and I am very much an independent. I grew up in Saskatchewan during the reign of the NDP and saw how detrimental too much government can be, even with good intentions. Conversely, I have also worked long enough in corporate environments to know that big business has too much influence on the right side of the spectrum.
Going into tonight, I had a significant mistrust of Mr. Romney and low confidence in Mr. Obama's competence. Coming out, I still don't trust Mr. Romney but I feel better about Mr. Obama. One mistake we all make is that we think the president can fix everything and this is just not true. Mr. Obama has not done well in breaking the bipolar dysfunctional congress, and if he is going to accomplish what needs to be done, he needs to get bipartisanship back on track. It will take concerted effort by everyone, and not just politicians, to get our ship back on course.
In my opinion, Mr. Obama outperformed Mr. Romney tonight. Although much of the debate seemed to be a couple of alpha males battling for the stage, Mr. Obama used facts and data much more effectively than Mr. Romney. Mr. Obama did a better job of outlining plans and goals, although both were light on the details.
Mr. Obama did better on the questions of jobs, energy, taxes, and misconceptions as a person. Mr. Romney was stronger on the Bush/Romney comparison, immigration, and possibly trade. They both dodged the Libya and guns questions.
Coming out of this, I am still undecided but leaning closer to Mr. Obama than Mr. Romney – but only marginally.
Jonathan Havercroft, a political science professor in Oklahoma City, from Montreal:
I thought this was a complete 180 from the first debate. Mr. Obama dominated from start to finish. The exchange over Libya was one of the most devastating exchanges I have ever seen in a presidential debate. And I also thought Mr. Obama's closing statement was very strong.
Meredith Miller, from Toronto, now lives in Pittsburgh, Penn., and works in communications for a health-focused non-profit:
Based on the last debate, Obama had nowhere to go but up last night, so of course he came off strong.
Overall, I dislike the townhall format and thought the quality of the questions asked could have been much better. Candy Crowley's attempt to "fact check" was overstepping her role as moderator, and her credibility was further damaged when she corrected herself after the debate when the cameras stopped rolling.
I also found the language used by each side interesting, Obama saying middle class, vs. Romney saying middle income; and then later Obama saying undocumented vs. Romney saying illegal. Overall, I'm not calling a clear cut winner on this one, both sides had their moments. Let's see what next week brings.
Ben Wright, a web developer in Atlanta, Ga., from PEI:
I think Mr. Romney scored big when he pointed out the things Mr. Obama ran on but didn't accomplish during his first term.
I think Mr. Obama scored major points on Libya, and when he pointed out that Mr. Romney made his fortune as an investor and that as an investor there's no way Mr. Romney would have invested in a business plan like Mr. Romney's.
If the Democrats are smart they'll jump all over Mr. Romney's "governments don't create jobs" interjection and point out that Mr. Romney is running on a pledge to create 12 million jobs. Which is it?