, HEMPSTEAD, New York, Oct 17 -An intense Barack Obama bounced off the ropes and accused Mitt Romney of untruths on Tuesday in a furious opening to his bid to blunt his foe’s momentum surge in their second presidential debate.
Minutes into the debate, Republican Romney and Democrat Obama stood toe-to-toe a few feet apart, angrily accusing one another of distorting each other’s policies and future plans on oil production and energy.
“Governor Romney says he has a five-point plan. He doesn’t have a five-point plan. He has a one-point plan, and that is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules,” Obama blasted.
In a high energy start to the face-off in Long Island, New York, Obama displayed more energy and passion than he showed in the whole of his limp 90 minute performance two weeks ago, which sent his poll numbers tumbling.
Romney, a 65-year-old former governor of Massachusetts, took the first question of the town-hall style debate, about the jobs crisis, and bemoaned the plight of ordinary Americans who he said had been “crushed over the last four years.”
“I know what it takes to create good jobs and to make sure you have the opportunity you deserve,” Romney said.
Obama, 51, was quick off his stool in response, looking 20-year-old questioner Jeremy Epstein straight in the eye, fixing him with an intense stare as he promised to quicken the US economic recovery.
He rapped Romney for opposing the auto industry bailout which he engineered and which he said had saved a million jobs, and brushed off his Republican rival’s denials.
“What Governor Romney said just isn’t true. He wanted to make them into bankruptcy without providing them any way to stay open,” Obama said.
Obama’s team had promised a “strong” and “passionate” performance by the president after his lifeless showing in the first debate in Denver, revived Romney’s campaign, which many Republicans thought was doomed to defeat.
Democrats were severely rattled by Obama’s no show, so his first mission on Tuesday was to reboot enthusiasm among his core supporters, with early voting already under way in a clutch of states ahead of election day on November 6.
The town hall setting, which had each candidate seated at a stool on a red carpet, and free to roam around, tested the body language of the two candidates, and capacity to empathize with the anxieties of everyday Americans.
Democrats had nervously awaited the debate, fearing another limp display from Obama could provoke a slide to defeat, just four years after the rampant hope and euphoria inspired by his historic election victory.
Senator John Kerry, who has been playing Romney in Obama’s debate prep, predicted the debate would be fun, saying the president was “excited about talking about his vision for the next four years.”
Kerry hinted Obama could dissect Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts, which he branded “one of the great charades of all time.”
Before the debate, Obama dined with his wife Michelle on steak and potatoes, while Romney ate a dinner of rotisserie chicken, with sides of spinach and baked potato, with his wife Ann and five sons.
Team Romney has had Obama on the ropes, and his campaign signaled confidence by predicting that the Republican would triumph in the key state of Ohio and nationwide.