Obama Controls Hofstra Debate

After the debacle in Denver on Oct. 2, President Obama needed a clear victory in last night’s debate at Hofstra in order to stop Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s surge in the latest national polls.

Mission accomplished — in style. Obama found the vigor and passion that were absent in his first debate, challenging the former Massachusetts governor on everything from equal pay for women to the amount of oil drilling in the U.S.

The biggest difference between the first and second debate was Obama’s framing of the issues. In the first debate, he engaged with Romney on the issues — a mistake because Romney has no record on the issues and has demonstrated a remarkable willingness to change his proposed policies on the fly. Policy minutiae bogged him down while Romney articulated his overarching governing philosophy.

This time, Obama stayed on message: Romney is a candidate of the rich, by the rich and for the rich, and his policies will threaten any footholds the middle class have gained in this past four years.

He was gifted an unexpected edge by Romney’s incompetent responses to questions regarding women’s issues. Romney talked about the “binders full of women” he looked at while trying to fill his cabinet as governor of Massachusetts, and responded to a question about women receiving unequal pay by touting how he had a flexible schedule as governor so that women didn’t have to work as long as men — precisely the opposite of what he should be saying in the 21st century.

Romney teed the President up again after Obama criticized him for holding assets in Chinese companies. For some reason, Romney took issue with this, saying that he had his assets in a “blind trust” and asking Obama if he’d looked at his pension.

Obama smiled in near-disbelief as he considered all of the digs he could make at Romney’s wealth in response.

“I don’t look at my pension,” he finally said. “It’s not as big as yours; it doesn’t take as long.” It didn’t make much sense, but the point still stood — Romney lives in a different world than us.

Romney couldn’t even touch Obama on the issues that should be his weaknesses — like energy and gas prices — and especially Libya. The White House’s dubious handling of the situation in Benghazi is matched only by the Romney campaign’s incompetence in talking about the issue. When Obama dodged a tough question from a voter about who was responsible for denying the Libyan embassy extra security, it looked like it could have been the moment that swung the debate in Romney’s favor. Instead, Romney and moderator Candy Crowley combined to serve up the best moment for President Obama on a night where he could seemingly do no wrong.

After Obama detailed his response to the attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya, in which he claimed to call it an act of terror, Romney saw an opportunity to pounce.

“You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror,” Romney said. “It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you’re saying?”

“Please proceed, Governor,” Obama replied, cool as ever.

“I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror,” Romney said as a gleeful Obama turned to Crowley. “Check the transcript,” Obama said.

Unfortunately for Romney, Crowley didn’t even need a transcript — she remembered Obama’s words. Game and set to the incumbent. The national media will paint the result as a draw — Romney got his own shots in as well — or a slight Obama victory, but the implications of last night will go farther than that. Obama reasserted himself as the calm yet strong leader, and successfully portrayed Romney as out-of-touch just as the GOP challenger appeared as if he was starting to connect with voters.