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Special> 2012 United States Presidential Election > Opinion
UPDATED: October 18, 2012
U.S. Presidential Race Remains Neck and Neck After Obama Wins Second Debate

While U.S. President Barack Obama came back strong in Tuesday night's second presidential debate with Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the race to the White House will remain tight and is still anybody's game, experts said.

"President Obama is back in the game with a strong debate performance. Romney's was strong too,"said Karlyn Bowman, senior fellow at the think tank American Enterprise Institute. "We have now, as we have had for some time, a very close race."

That means the two candidates will continue to fight tooth and nail up until the Election Day on November 6, with likely no clear victor in sight until the ballots are cast and counted.

Indeed, Romney surged ahead in polls after his first debate with Obama earlier this month and now leads the race by a razor- thin margin of 0.4, according to Real Clear Politics' poll average, and continues to make gains in various polls.

The challenger picked up two extra points on Wednesday in Gallup's daily tracking poll, which put him ahead by 51 points to Obama's 46 points among likely voters.

Meanwhile, the race in battleground states is tightening, as Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin last week shifted from leaning toward Obama to being up for grabs, according to Real Clear Politics. Also last week, Romney crossed the 50 percent mark for the first time to widen his lead in the key battleground state of Florida.

And while post-debate snap polls conducted by the CBS found that voters thought Obama won Tuesday's debate, a closer look reveals that uncommitted voters thought Romney beat the president on the economy by a whopping 65 percent to 34 percent.

While a number of issues were raised on Tuesday night, from women's rights in the workplace to foreign policy, the economy and jobs tops the lists of important issues for Americans amid a sluggish recovery and high jobless rates.

Obama Came Back Strong

The overall consensus on Tuesday's debate was that Obama won on points, which ties the president with his rival in the debates game at one for one as they enter next week's third and final round of debate.

Obama stuck his jab in the challenger's face all night long Tuesday. Whenever Romney, former Massachusetts governor, tried to make a point, he was right there to sting him, taking a markedly sharper tone from the president's lackluster performance in the first debate.

Darrell M. West, vice president and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, said Obama's strong performance will stem Romney's polling surge and put Obama in a better position in the run-up to the elections.

Still, Romney held his ground, and at times the two candidates got into each others' grill in heated exchanges, such as one on energy policy in which Romney claimed oil and gas production on U. S. soil had declined under the Obama administration.

"I thought Romney was generally strong, as he was in the first debate. The difference was that the president improved his performance significantly," said John Fortier, director of the democracy project at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Fortier said Romney was very effective in two areas. He repeatedly laid out the case of how the economy has been poor for the past four years. And he made the case for his jobs plan and remained focused on these two major focal points of the election.

Still, Obama was much more active in describing his policies, pointing out the challenger's weaknesses and aggressively standing up for himself in fighting for time and to keep Romney on topic, Fortier said.

"The biggest difference was his aggressiveness," Fortier said.

A Missed Opportunity for Romney

Going into the debate, it was thought that Romney would have a juicy piece of meat to bite into concerning the September 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after which the Obama administration was charged with what critics said was providing inadequate security that led to several American deaths.

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack. The Obama administration first described the attack as the spontaneous result of a protest over a video mocking Islamic Prophet Mohammed. Later the administration admitted that it was in fact a planned terror attack, stirring controversy over whether Obama's state department had covered it up.

But Romney missed an opportunity to attack the president over the issue Tuesday, getting bogged down on details during the discussion.

At that point, moderator Candy Crowley read out part of the transcript of the president's speech delivered the day after the deadly attack, in which the president said "no acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this nation."

The statement was followed by a slew of appearances by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on TV talk shows, in which she maintained that the attack was spontaneous and not pre- planned.

Still, next week's third and final debate will focus on foreign policy, which presents a second chance for Romney to confront Obama on the Libya attack.

(Xinhua News Agency October 17, 2012)

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