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Barack Obama, Mitt Romney Tangle in Heated Second Presidential Debate

John Moore/Getty Images
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama talk over each other as they answer questions Tuesday night during a town hall-style debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

“Whatever the president lost in his first debate, he more than made up for in this debate,” New York Sen. Charles Schumer (D) said. He added that if a similar number of people tuned in to this one as watched the first one, he thought people would see “a real bounce up for the president.”

Romney adviser Ed Gillespie insisted his man came away victorious. “The fact is, Gov. Romney won this debate because the American people heard from him clearly what he will do to turn this country around,” Gillespie said.

Aside from the Libya exchange, the president had other apparent victories in a debate filled with tension that ricocheted from the room here across television screens to millions of voters at home, but the hits weren’t as clean and Romney stood his own.

A testy exchange toward the beginning of the more than 90-minute event set the stage for the rough-and-tumble debate to come.

In response to a question from the audience about the increase in gas prices, Obama spoke about the increase of gas, oil and efficient car production. He said jobs were being created. “That’s the strategy you need, an all-of-the-above strategy, and that’s what we’re going to do in the next four years,” he said.

“But that’s not what you’ve done in the last four years,” Romney quickly retorted. “That’s the problem. In the last four years, you cut permits and licenses on federal land and federal waters in half.”

Obama cut in: “Not true, Gov. Romney.”

Romney asked the president how much he had cut.

“Governor, we have actually produced more oil,” the president said.

“No, no,” Romney pressed with some aggression. “How much did you cut licenses and permits on federal land and federal waters?”

Both began to talk over each other, standing just a few feet apart in a heated moment that appeared to reveal just how little either of the men like the other.

“I’m happy to answer the question,” Obama said.

Local newscasts late Tuesday were already playing that clip as one of the marquee exchanges of the debate.

Romney also had some very strong riffs, particularly discussing the Obama record. Perhaps his best played on the idea of whether voters are better off than they were four years ago.

An audience member asked what Obama had done over the past four years to earn his vote. The president went through a litany of promises he had kept and the things he had done to get the country moving again. Romney then took the stage.

“I think you know better. I think you know that these last four years haven’t been so good as the president just described and that you don’t feel like your confident that the next four years are going to be much better either,” he said. “I can tell you that if you were to elect President Obama, you know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get a repeat of the last four years. We just can’t afford four more years like the last four years.”

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