Obama, Romney spar at Hofstra debate

An aggressive President Barack Obama accused challenger Mitt Romney of favoring a "one-point plan" to help the rich and leveling offensive criticism about the recent

HEMPSTEAD - An aggressive President Barack Obama accused challenger Mitt Romney of favoring a "one-point plan" to help the rich and leveling offensive criticism about the recent deadly terrorist attack in Libya Tuesday night in a debate crackling with energy and emotion just three weeks before the election held at Hofstra University in Hempstead.

Romney pushed back hard, saying the middle class "has been crushed over the last four years," that 23 million Americans are struggling to find work and that the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya was part of an unraveling of the administration's foreign policy.

The president was feistier from the outset than he had been in their initial encounter two weeks ago, when he turned in a listless performance that sent shudders through his supporters and helped fuel a rise by Romney in opinion polls nationally and in some battleground states.

Obama challenged Romney on economics and energy policy, accusing him of switching positions and declaring that his economic plan was a "sketchy deal" that the public should reject.

Romney gave as good as he got.

"You'll get your chance in a moment. I'm still speaking," the former Massachusetts governor said at one point while Obama was mid-sentence. He said the president's policies had failed to jumpstart the economy and crimped energy production.

The open-stage format left the two men free to stroll freely across a red-carpeted stage, and they did. Their clashes crackled with energy and tension, and the crowd watched raptly as the two sparred while struggling to appear calm and affable before a national television audience.

The rivals disagreed about taxes, measures to reduce the deficit, energy, pay equity for women and health care issues. Immigration prompted yet another clash, Romney saying Obama had failed to pursue the comprehensive legislation he promised at the dawn of his administration, and the president saying Republican obstinacy made a deal impossible.

Under the format agreed to in advance, members of an audience of 82 uncommitted voters posed questions to the president and his challenger.

Nearly all of them concerned domestic policy until one raised the subject of the recent death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya in a terrorist attack at an American post in Benghazi.

Romney said it took Obama a long time to admit the episode had been a terrorist attack, but Obama said he had said so the day after in an appearance in the Rose Garden outside the White House.

When moderator Candy Crowley of CNN said the president had in fact done so, Obama, prompted, "Say that a little louder, Candy."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has taken responsibility for the death of Ambassador L. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, but Obama said bluntly, "I'm the president and I'm always responsible.

The final debate, next Monday in Florida, will be devoted to foreign policy.

AP wire services contributed to this report.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Thoughts on the debate from Facebook and Twitter

Hofstra Debate LIVE BlogRoad Closures

advertisement | advertise on News 12

Top 5 Must See

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: (L-R) U.S. President 1 Donald Trump sworn in as 45th president of the United States
Julia Fenster, co-president of the Nassau County Chapter 2 LI residents prepare for women's marches in Washington, NYC
News 12 Long Island reporter Eileen Lehpamer was 3 LI residents among thousands present for Trump inauguration
President Donald Trump underlined patriotism during his inaugural 4 Trump promises to be voice for 'forgotten men and women'
Gone from the site are any mentions of 5 For White House, new tenants mean new website

advertisement | advertise on News 12

Features

Each week, News 12's Doug Geed explores the Check out fun things to do on the East End!

Explore the Twin Forks with News 12's Doug Geed.

Each week a different shelter visits News 12 Dog Day Fridays Series

Each week a different shelter visits News 12 Long Island with pets up for adoption.

News 12 digs deep to find Long Island's Discover Long Island's Hidden Past

News 12's Danielle Campbell digs into Long Island's roots.

News 12's Lily Stolzberg sees how much Long On The Spot

News 12's Lily Stolzberg sees how much Long Islanders know about everything and anything.

Sorry to interrupt...

Your first 5 are free

Access to News12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Time Warner® and Service Electric℠ video customers.

Please enjoy 5 complimentary views to articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.

LOGIN SUBSCRIBE