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Republican nominee Mitt Romney and incumbent President Barack Obama turned up the heat once again during the second presidential debate, hosted at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
During the town-hall-style discussion over foreign and domestic policy, issues ranged from the current state of the economy to Libya and everything in between. The Gallup Organization selected 82 undecided voters from the New York area, who then provided questions for the candidates to answer.
Moderator Candy Crowley from CNN’s State of the Union opened the floor to 20-year-old college student Jeremy Epstein to start the question and answer session.
“Mr. President, Gov. Romney, as a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?” Epstein asked.
Because he won the coin toss, Gov. Romney answered first.
“Thank you, Jeremy. I appreciate your question, and thank you for being here this evening,” Romney said. “Your question is one that’s being asked by college kids all over this country … So what we have to do is two things: we have to make sure that we make it easier for kids to afford college and also make sure that when they get out of college, there’s a job … I know what it takes to get this economy going … I know what it takes to make sure that you have the kind of opportunity you deserve.”
Obama replied by commenting on the importance of investing in higher education and what that means to the individual as well as to the nation.
“The most important thing we can do is to make sure that we are creating jobs in this country … ones that can support a family,” Obama said. “What I want to do is build on the 5 million jobs that we’ve created over the last 30 months in the private sector alone. And there are a bunch of things that we can do to make sure your future is bright. Number one, I want to build manufacturing jobs in this country again … and number two, we’ve got to make sure that we have the best education system in the world.”
Crowley was cut off several times by both candidates throughout the debate in order to squeeze in extra seconds of response time. Crowley also had to interject multiple times between the bickering candidates.
After Epstein’s question about employment post-graduation, Crowley elaborated by mentioning a 40 percent unemployment rate, saying that those currently employed do not have the two years until graduation that Epstein has.
“What about those long-term unemployed who need a job right now?” Crowley asked.
Romney replied, using some specific numbers.
“The president’s policies have been exercised over the last four years, and they haven’t put Americans back to work,” Romney said. “If the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent when he took office, it’s 7.8 percent now. But if you calculated that unemployment rate, taking back the people who dropped out of the workforce, it would be 10.7 percent. We have not made the progress we need to make to put people back to work.”
Obama retorted by accusing Gov. Romney of not having his promised “five-point plan.”
“Gov. Romney has a one-point plan, and that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules,” Obama said. “That’s been his philosophy in the private sector, as governor and as a presidential candidate. That’s what’s been squeezing middle-class families. We have fought back for four years to get out of that mess, and the last thing we need to do is to go back to the very same policies that got us there.”
According to CNN, the president seemed to be trying to make up lost ground following his “lackluster” performance in the first presidential debate Oct. 3 in Denver.
CNN also reported that the Obama campaign claimed victory during this second debate.
David Axelrod, senior Obama campaign advisor, claimed that Romney was “backpedaling all night in defense, and in some cases stammering, trying to explain his plans. It was a dominant performance because the president pulled the curtain back on this bait-and-switch of Mitt Romney,” Axelrod said.
However, CNN also reported that the Romney campaign highly disagreed.
“I think President Obama came in and overcompensated,” Stuart Stevens, senior Romney campaign strategist, said. “There’s a difference between showing passion and showing you have a plan.”
The final debate took place after the Champion deadline at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., Monday, Oct. 22 and covered issues in foreign policy. Bob Schieffer, host of Face the Nation on CBS, moderated the debate.
A recap of the final debate can be found online at libertychampion.com.