His supporters can take comfort in his energy, aggressiveness, and determination. He was far stronger than in the first debate.
But although Obama improved stylistically, he was profoundly dishonest on the substance.
Romney was strong but not quite as good as in the first debate. He missed a huge opportunity on Libya, a big opportunity on energy, and several smaller opportunities.
He was also forced to be argumentative and pushy by moderator Candy Crowley’s constant intervention on behalf of Obama.
After two debates in which the moderators were relatively passive and allowed the candidates to decide the pattern and rhythm of the debate, this town hall saw the return of the liberal activist as an interventionist force.
As I have often warned when Republicans tolerate liberal moderators, they are setting up two-on-one contests in which they have to fight their way past both the moderator and the opposing candidate.
Crowley repeatedly intervened to stop Romney from dismantling Obama’s lies on taxes and women’s issues, even though she had given him far less time to speak. Her support of Obama’s false claim that on Sept. 12 he had described the Benghazi attack as terrorism may go down in debate history as an extraordinary propping up of falsehood.
Obama in the Rose Garden called the Libya attacks “senseless violence” and referred generally to “acts of terror,” then spent weeks dodging the truth on Benghazi. Everyone knows this. Within minutes after the debate Crowley acknowledged that of course Romney was “right in the main”: the administration did refuse for weeks to call the acts “terrorism” or to attribute them to “terrorists.”
It is precisely because so many of Obama’s key moments were based on falsehood that we will not know for several more days who really won the town hall meeting.
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