City | 1:17 am | October 17, 2012 | By Michelle Hackman

First Reactions: Second Presidential Debate

U.S. President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney
U.S. President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney Photo by Michelle Hackman.

President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney squared off in their second of three debates at Hofstra University in New York on Tuesday. After the debate, student political leaders around campus shared their thoughts on the event. Read their reactions below:

Ella Wood ’15, Vice Chairwoman of the Independent Party

Supporters of the President have cause for celebration, or at least relief, after the debate. It may have seemed that Governor Romney had the advantage leading into tonight, but fact-checking from the last debate has had time to catch up with him, so viewers were primed to listen for falsehoods in what Romney was saying. Obama did a much better job tonight of pointing out Romney’s half-truths, which was something sorely lacking from his performance at the first debate.

Romney did hammer home some of the strongest themes from the first debate, particularly his case that the Obama administration has failed to resuscitate the economy, which he delivers with conviction every time. He, however, had several moments that will set some voters’ teeth on edge: For example, his discussion of fair pay for women not only was meme-worthy, but also revealed a narrative of women’s lives that will irk many female voters — and it was only made worse by his self-congratulatory stories about his corporate experience. Obama had a few missteps, too, and it took him a while to hit his stride; neither campaign was served by the bickering that sometimes threatened to erupt.

Ultimately, though it wasn’t the decisive victory Romney delivered last week, Obama’s performance gave his campaign plenty of material to use in the spin room, and should be enough to reassure and re-energize his supporters.

Zak Newman, President of the Yale College Democrats

Wow. The President hit it out of the park tonight. He reminded voters of all he has accomplished in the last four years and laid out specific plans for how we will continue to rebuild our economy in the next four. His closing statements defined the choice voters will make in a few weeks: between a man who may (or may not) dismiss a near majority of Americans and one who believes that the key to economic growth lies in the middle class — not at the very top income bracket.

But it was when the candidates fell flat that we could best measure each man. When the President struggled on a tough question, he was careful and referred back to his campaign’s themes of empowerment and interdependence. Romney’s fumbles were surprising and offensive, relegating the work of sexual equality to quotas, suggesting that he leads on policy only when private interests agree, and trying to corner the President with factual inaccuracies on the sensitive situation in Libya.

The crowd at Hofstra — myself included — couldn’t help but cheer when Romney was put in his place.

Nicholas Sas ’14, Chairman of the Tory Party

Alas, Obama decided to show up to this debate. Unfortunately, he spent the entire night running from his own failures and trying to distort Romney’s plan. As much as he smeared Romney’s plan, he utterly failed to offer a vision of his own. Exchanging “hope” and “change” to “forward” as his slogan, Obama tacitly admitted to his disaster of a presidency, yet what he proposes for the next four years remains a mystery.

Madelaine Taft-Ferguson ’13, Chair of the Party of the Left

[The debate is] either hilarious or they’re both being childish, and Romney is whining. But it’s more fun to watch and they’re both doing slightly better; it seems to just be an effect of the format.

Alexander Crutchfield ’15, Floor Leader of the Right for the Yale Political Union

Although Barack Obama’s new aggressive demeanor might come of to some as victorious, it merely served as a guise to hide his multiple factual errors. Most egregious was his claim that he always stated the attacks in Benghazi were acts of terror. Although Obama references the attacks as acts of terror, this was merely in reference the terror involved in random violence. The administration’s unclear story on what actually occurred in Benghazi stole the show tonight.

Correction: October 17, 2012

A previous version of this article misidentified Madelaine Taft-Ferguson’s title as “Chairwoman.” In fact, her title is “Chair.”

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