As it happened: Second presidential debate

Key Points

  • The US presidential candidates, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, clashed at Hofstra University, New York.
  • For 90-minutes, undecided voters questioned the candidates on domestic and foreign policy.
  • In the spin room backstage, both teams are claiming their man is victorious.

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  1.  
    2000:

    Welcome to the BBC's live coverage of the second US presidential debate between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. They will be taking questions from 80 undecided voters in New York.

     
  2.  
    2002:

    We'll be streaming the debate live on this page and highlighting the best commentary from the spin room, from our correspondents and from around the web. Send us your contributions, using the form below.

     
  3.  
    2006:

    The setting is Hofstra University in Hempstead, a suburb of New York City. Hofstra previously held the last debate between Mr Obama and Arizona Senator John McCain in 2008.

     
  4.  
    2011:

    Tonight's debate will be a town hall format - undecided voters have been invited by polling firm Gallup to ask the candidates their pressing questions on all issues. There will be no podiums or opening and closing statements.

     
  5.  
    2014:

    Your moderator this evening is Candy Crowley, the host of CNN's State of the Union, a weekend political talk show. Interesting tidbit: If she wasn't a high-profile Washington journalist, she says she would be a homicide detective.

     
  6.  
    2016:

    Ms Crowley is the only person who knows the questions beforehand and has chosen their order. The debate commission is aiming for the candidates to answer 13 questions.

     
  7.  
    2021:

    Much has been made in the US media about Crowley saying that she will ask follow-up questions, especially if the candidates do not answer questions in a direct way. Both campaigns signed a memorandum of understanding that said the moderator would not ask follow-up questions. But neither Crowley nor any debate commission official signed that document. So ask away, Candy.

     
  8.  
    2027: Jude Sheerin BBC News, New York

    In the spin room, Democratic surrogates have been busy. Howard Dean, who ran unsuccessfully for the party's nomination in 2004, told the press pack: "Romney has no inner core whatsoever. He's had three positions on taxes, three positions on immigration, three positions on everything... and that's not going to make him president."

     
  9.  
    2029:

    The president's last debate performance was near-universally panned, and the BBC's Mark Mardell has said this is a do-or-die debate for Obama.

     
  10.  
    2030:

    Since the first debate in Denver, Obama has seen his lead in the polls evaporate, making the race now a dead heat, including in some key election states. Our poll tracker has more of where each candidate stands.

     
  11.  
    2032: Eddie Turner, Indiana

    tweets: Tonight's debate has all the 'pre-fight' drama and commentary of a live pay-per-view boxing event!

     
  12.  
    2033: Jude Sheerin BBC News, New York

    Now it's the Republicans' turn in the spin room. Reince Priebus, chairman of the party's national committee, tells the BBC: "The problem this president has is that he's not real any more to the American people. He's not who he said he was, and that's a tough place to be because a lot of people believed in the Barack Obama of 2008. Unfortunately, he's not that guy any more." What kind of Barack Obama do you expect to show up tonight, I ask Priebus. "I don't know, we'll wait and see," he shrugs. "We're getting a new version every few days."

     
  13.  
    2035:

    Everybody's a shutterbug - audience members take photos before the debate begins. Perhaps someone is handing out these disposable cameras?

    Audience members takes photos at presidential debate at Hofstra University 16 October 2012
     
  14.  
    2036: Mark Mardell BBC North America editor

    tweets: "Pretty funny Dem site on Romney tax plan - will Obama be as good?"

     
  15.  
    2039:

    Presidential candidate arrested. Not the headline you were expecting? Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, the top ticket for the Green Party, were taken into custody outside the debate site after refusing to leave. The BBC's Jude Sheerin in New York confirms that they were charged with disorderly conduct. The Green Party and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson have argued they are being excluded from the debates.

     
  16.  
    2041:

    After the debate this evening, the activity will rush to the debate site's spin room, where partisans will argue who came out on top. But during the debate, fact checkers will be on point, figuring out who is stretching the truth. The BBC's Matt Danzico spent some time with these fact-checkers during the vice-presidential debate.

     
  17.  
    2044:

    Frank Fahrenkopf of the Commission on Presidential Debates tells the audience to refrain from clapping, cheering or taking photos. "And try not to Twitter for 90 minutes," he adds.

     
  18.  
    2045: Katty Kay BBC World News America

    tweets: "Obama campaign wanted more people in audience #hofdebate. Commission was planning fewer people in comfy chairs but had to change the set."

     
  19.  
    2046: HJH, Rochester, Minnesota

    emails: I can no longer believe much of what Obama says. He has little idea what the middle class actually has to endure under his failed administrative policies.

     
  20.  
    2050:

    The Washington Post's Greg Sargent tweets: "Any news org that amplifies Romney's claims tonight that he'll create 12 million jobs w/o scrutiny is actively helping him mislead." Reporters just got email en masse about said talking point.

     
  21.  
    2051:
    Mitt Romney before the debate in Hempstead, New York 16 October 2012

    Mitt Romney waits backstage before the debate.

     
  22.  
    Brent Woodcox, Raleigh, North Carolina

    tweets: Romney expectations couldn't be higher. Obama's couldn't be lower. We'll see how this plays out.

     
  23.  
    2057:

    In the debate hall, moderator Candy Crowley appears on stage: "We have a front row seat to history tonight, even if you're in the cheap seats."

     
  24.  
    Chris Young

    tweets: After months and months of campaigning, I don't know how it's even possible to fill a room with undecided voters.

     
  25.  
    2103:

    The candidates walk out to the stage and quickly shake hands.

     
  26.  
    2103:

    And we're off. The first question is on jobs - asked by a 20-year-old college student.

     
  27.  
    2105:

    Mitt Romney takes the first question. We have to make sure college graduates have jobs, he says - that's the key thing.

     
  28.  
    2106:

    "I know what it takes to get this economy going," Mr Romney says, repeating a line from his main pitch to voters.

     
  29.  
    2106:

    Now the president. We need to make sure we are not just creating jobs, but good jobs that can provide for a family, he says.

     
  30.  
    2108:

    Obama partly answers the jobs question by referring to the benefits of new investment in energy-efficient technologies.

     
  31.  
    2109:

    All eyes are on Obama's performance tonight. His eyes never leave the young questioner as the president outlines his intentions on job creation.

     
  32.  
    Mario Boone

    tweets: Noticeable difference in POTUS right off the bat. Sharper, shorter answers.

     
  33.  
    2110:

    Fact check: Mitt Romney says half of college graduated can't find jobs or a college-level job. PolitFact rates this as true.

     
  34.  
    2112:

    The guys at the top play by a different set of rules, says the president - that's Mitt Romney's plan, he adds.

     
  35.  
    2112:

    Next question is on gas prices. Obama says he has increased oil and natural gas production, and more coal production. But we need to look to the future and we've doubled fuel efficiency in cars.

     
  36.  
    2114:

    What's the story on jobs added during Obama's first term? The New York Times has a useful graphic.

     
  37.  
    2115:

    Energy and fuel prices prompt the next exchange: "He's got the oil and gas power but doesn't have the clean energy," says Obama, referring to Romney.

     
  38.  
    2116:

    "I believe very much in our renewable capabilities," says Romney, but adds that the president is holding back the advantage of coal, oil and gas.

     
  39.  
    2117:

    Romney disbelieving on the Keystone XL pipeline: "How he didn't approve that pipeline I will never know."

     
  40.  
    2119:
    Obama in New York

    Barack Obama has been more forceful in style this time.

     
  41.  
    2120:

    The two men are clashing now over energy policy. There is more life in this exchange than there was in 90 minutes of the first debate.

     
  42.  
    2123:

    The energy debate saw the two men each seek centre stage, prowling the red carpet and virtually looking each other right in the eye, as Mitt Romney challenged the president over levels of oil production on federally owned land. Dramatic stuff.

     
  43.  

    The New Yorker's Tad Friend tweets: "I think walking around helps Obama, as it did in this same debate with McCain--he likes to prowl. It's the old law professor in him."

     
  44.  
    Makenzie O'Donnell

    tweets: I wish Obama would answer one question. He keeps going off topic.

     
  45.  
    2125:

    Fact check: The Obama campaign has repeatedly said Mitt Romney wanted to "let Detroit go bankrupt". It's half-true, Politifact says.

     
  46.  
    2126:

    Now it's tax. Romney is explaining how he will lower taxes on the middle class because "in the last four years they've been buried."

     
  47.  
    2128:

    The president admits the middle class has been hit hard over the last 10 and 20 years. I have cut taxes for them by $3,600, he says. But we need to make sure the wealthy do more.

     
  48.  
    Chandler Hudson

    tweets: ‏Top 5% of taxpayers will continue to pay 60% of the income tax. Middle class will see a tax break, according to Mitt Romney's plan.

     
  49.  
    2132:

    Did Mitt Romney say coal plants "kill people"? Liberal website ThinkProgress has a clip from that press conference in 2003.

     
  50.  
    2133:

    Obama now questioning why Romney has not revealed more details about his tax and spending policy. "The math doesn't add up."

     
  51.  
    2134:

    Remember that memo of understanding between the campaigns? It said candidates should not engage directly - looks like that's been forgotten.

     
  52.  
    2135:

    Crowley asking Romney what happens if his numbers don't add up. "Of course they add up," he says. I ran the state of Massachusetts, I ran business for 25 years and I ran the Olympics, he adds.

     
  53.  
    2136:

    "We are on the road to Greece," says Romney, highlighting the country's debt problems.

     
  54.  
    2139:

    Next question is on gender inequality in the workplace. Obama says his single mother made a lot of sacrifices and his grandmother worked her way up in a bank. So one of the first bills I signed was aimed at helping women to advance, he adds.

     
  55.  
    2140:

    The tax question is, in a way, at the heart of the debate between the two men. They both seemed intent on having the last word on the viability - or otherwise - of their respective plans, until the moderator forced a move onto the next question.

     
  56.  
    2140:

    Fact Check: Has Barack Obama in fact cut middle class taxes? Broadly yes, Politifact says, with some exceptions for small businesses and other minor taxes

     
  57.  
    Josh Rowley, East Longmeadow, Massachusetts

    tweets: Romney is controlling this debate with facts. Obama is pathetically resorting to old class warfare rhetoric. Weak.

     
  58.  
    2144:

    Romney's remark about "binders full of women" seems to have confused a lot of wags on Twitter.

     
  59.  
    Kim Ghattas BBC state department correspondent

    That was an odd answer from Romney on equal pay for women. Didn't answer q, sounded like he wanted to fill cabinet w women just for show.

     
  60.  
    2147: Jude Sheerin BBC News, New York

    Obama on the Lilly Ledbetter fair pay law: "We fixed that". Is this his comeback to "You didn't build that", his much-criticised remark on how companies cannot succeed without the federal government to build infrastructure and fund innovation and education?

     
  61.  
    2147:

    CBS News' Mark Knoller tweets: "Neither candidate happy with Crowley's allotment of time. That's the no win part of being moderator. Someone get her an air horn."

     
  62.  
    2149:

    "My priority is jobs and I know how to make that happen," says Romney.

     
  63.  
    2154:

    Obama outlining his achievements, at home and abroad - Wall Street reform, the death of Bin Laden, saving an auto industry on brink of collapse, he says. But lots of people are struggling, so my plans on health and education, energy, will make a difference, he adds.

     
  64.  
    2155:

    The president is first up answering a question about why he deserves the vote of a man who chose him last time round. He ends his answer stridently criticising Mitt Romney. Romney takes the stage and begins his answer stridently criticising Barack Obama. Has the voter got his answer?

     
  65.  
    2155:

    "The last four years have not been as good as how the president just described them," says Romney. No plans to reform Medicare and social security, no reform of immigration system. "This is a president who has not been able to do what he said he would do."

     
  66.  
    2156:

    Fact Check: Has the US really added enough oil and gas pipelines to circle the Earth once? Sure, the Washington Post says, but it's not such an outstanding statistic when you compare it to previous administrations.

     
  67.  
    Scott, USA

    emails: It's like listening to two used car salesman. It's not about what they say, but what they didn't say.

     
  68.  
    2157:

    Romney: "He's great as a speaker... except we have a record to look at."

     
  69.  
    2158:

    Romney again: "That's what this election is about: It's about who can get the middle class in this country a bright and prosperous future."

     
  70.  

    The BBC's Jonny Dymond tweets: How is Obama supposed to 'answer' question on how Romney is different from Bush? Strange. Open goal for Obama. He shoots.

     
  71.  
    2159:

    We're onto immigration policy, which has been seen as a weak spot for Romney since the Republican primaries, when he took a tough line on illegal immigration.

     
  72.  
    2201:

    Commentators have noted that the Republicans have consistently failed to win wide support among Latinos across the US - at least in part because of their internal debate over immigration.

     
  73.  
    2203:

    Romney says immigrants should be allowed into the the US with Green Cards, a legal pathway. Obama criticises him for his primary-season position backing "self-deportation" of illegal migrants.

     
  74.  
    Romney and Obama at debate

    The "town hall" debate has allowed more direct engagement between the two men than there was in Denver.

     
  75.  
    2207:

    Romney is pressing Obama about his pension, and the president appeals to the moderator. "We're going off topic here," he says.

     
  76.  
    2209:

    Have you looked at your pension, Romney asks Obama. No, he replies: "It's not as big as yours."

     
  77.  

    The BBC's Mark Mardell tweets: Obama - my pension not as big as yours ... gets a huge laugh in the press room

     
  78.  
    2209:

    And after more than an hour, we are onto foreign policy, and the big debate of the week, who exactly was responsible for security failures in Libya that saw the US ambassador killed in Benghazi.

     
  79.  
    2212:

    The Benghazi attacks claimed four US lives on 11 September. The president vows to find out exactly what happened, and hold people accountable. "I'm ultimately responsible for what takes place there."

     
  80.  
    2214:

    Romney says the attacks bring into question the president's whole policy in the Middle East - "a strategy of leading from behind and we are seeing it unravelling before our eyes".

     
  81.  

    New York Magazine's John Heilemann tweets: "Obama hasn't really answered on Libya. Why? No good answer."

     
  82.  
    2216:

    Obama stands up, looks at Romney from across the stage and insists that no-one in his team would play politics with the attacks in Libya.

     
  83.  

    The BBC's Kim Ghattas tweets: But Obama doesn't really answer the question re Libya and demands for extra security.

     
  84.  
    2218:

    A question on gun control - not an issue often in the centre of political debate in recent years.

     
  85.  
    2219:

    Politifact has a special level for extremely untrue statements: "Pants on Fire". Mitt Romney's "apology tour" attack on Obama's foreign policy is one of them.

     
  86.  
    2223:

    Obama says he's no stranger to the grief and sadness of gun-related violence, citing his home town of Chicago. Romney ends his answer talking about the controversial Fast and Furious programme that saw US guns funnelled to Mexico.

     
  87.  

    Foreign Policy's Blake Hounshell tweets: Fast and Furious too hard to explain in a short debate.

     
  88.  
    2225:

    Obama says both he and the former governor agree on the importance of parents and schools in addressing violence in young people.

     
  89.  
    2226:

    Neither candidate appears too comfortable on the gun control issue: moderator Crowley ends up halting Obama as his answer meanders into education policy.

     
  90.  
    2227:

    Romney taking a question on the outsourcing of jobs. We have made it less attractive to stay in the US than go offshore, he says, vowing to reverse that trend.

     
  91.  
    2227:

    Google Politics shares the top three trending searches during the 1st half of the debate: 1) fact check 2) gas prices in 2008 3) lilly ledbetter fair pay act

     
  92.  
    Karl, UK

    emails: Obama is lecturing people while Romney is talking to them. Big difference in tone.

     
  93.  
    2231:

    Obama says the way to create jobs is to double exports and the US is on target to achieve that. "That's why we have been pushing trade deals that give American businesses a good deal."

     
  94.  
    2233:

    Obama concedes that some jobs are not going to return to the US. "I want high-wage, high-skilled jobs."

     
  95.  
    2234:
    Romney and Obama at debate

    The two men clashed several times.

     
  96.  
    2234:

    Romney squeezes in an aside before moderator Crowley wraps up the jobs question: "Government does not create jobs... government does not create jobs."

     
  97.  
    2236:

    The last question is on misconceptions about each candidate and Romney raises his 47% remark, when he appeared to dismiss people who didn't pay income tax.

     
  98.  
    2240:

    Obama says Romney dismissed people who have worked all their lives, students, soldiers fighting overseas, people paying payroll taxes. "I want to fight for them because I believe that if these people succeed, then the country succeeds."

     
  99.  
    2242:

    The president got the chance to address an issue which never came up in the first debate, and an opportunity to pitch to voters right at the end.

     
  100.  
    2243:

    And on that note, the debate finishes and the families join the two men on stage.

     
  101.  
    2244:

    The next debate is in Florida on 22 October. It will cover foreign policy.

     
  102.  
    Julie Delegal, Jacksonville, Florida

    tweets: POTUS wins. More poised, fluid, natural. Achieved what he needed to.

     
  103.  

    Conservative TV host Joe Scarborough tweets: Romney wins the 1st debate. Obama wins tonight by a closer margin. The Thrilla in Boca may decide it all.

     
  104.  
    Paul Adams BBC News, Washington

    Obama had an excellent finale all ready to go on Mitt Romney's 47% comment. But Mitt Romney, by saying once again that he cares about 100% of Americans, could not have set it up more perfectly.

     
  105.  

    CNN conservative commentator Erick Erickson tweets: "Obama definitely did better than the last time, but I don't think it was enough. Romney kept reminding everyone about Obama's record."

     
  106.  
    2249:

    Photo of the night?

    Debate at Hofstra University 16 October 2012
     
  107.  
    Andrew Holstin, Portland, Oregon

    tweets: Mitt and I might not both be Mormon but I like that he believes in America. It will be a nice change from our current president.

     
  108.  
    2254:

    Fact check: Obama says Romney was linked to "pioneers of outsourcing" during his time at Bain Capital. The New York Times says it is "unclear" whether some of the companies tied to the reports increased or decreased under Bain.

     
  109.  
    2259:

    CBS snap poll of who won the debate - Obama: 37%, Romney: 30%, Tie: 33%, with a margin of error of four points.

     
  110.  
    2301:

    Republican Louisiana Governor, Bobby Jindal, says Romney "absolutely" won the debate. Obama was more aggressive tonight but couldn't cover up his failures of the last four years, he tells CNN.

     
  111.  
    2302:

    Fact check: Has Obama brought back manufacturing jobs back to the US or has the sector shrunk? New York Times says both candidates have a point.

     
  112.  

    The Democratic former Ohio governor, Ted Strickland, tweets: The President did not let Mitt Romney reinvent himself tonight & clearly put Romney on his heels throughout the debate #TeamBarack

     
  113.  
    2309:

    Moderator Candy Crowley defends letting the two men go over time on occasion: "It was fun to watch." She says she had to correct Romney when he "tripped himself up" by misrepresenting Obama's remarks about Libya. "I was trying to bring some kind of clarity to the situation."

     
  114.  
    Brandon Diebold

    tweets: I like Romney way better than Obama. Obama just seems lost when Romney talks about how he's failed as president.

     
  115.  
    Ivan, Buenos Aires, Argentina

    emails: Obama proved he recovered from his last debate and that he's still strong. I can't say he won the debate, but Democrats can stop worrying about the weakened image the president showed in the past few weeks.

     
  116.  

    Conservative commentator Joshua Trevino tweets: Really appreciate the partisan diehards on both sides letting me know I've missed their guy's obvious dominance.

     
  117.  

    Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, tweets: "Libya is obviously a very important topic. But how about talking a bit about the war in Afghanistan, guys?"

     
  118.  
    2335:

    The verdicts on tonight's debate are now beginning to come in: CNN's post-debate poll gives it to Obama by 46% to 39%.

     
  119.  
    2339:

    And with the pundits debating who won the debate, it's time for us to wrap up our live coverage. We'll be back for the third and final debate - in Boca Raton, Florida, on 22 October. From then it's just over two weeks until election day itself on 6 November. Did President Barack Obama revive his re-election bid with a stronger showing tonight? Did Mitt Romney keep his Denver momentum going? We'll find out soon enough. Thanks for being with us.

     

US Presidential Election 2012

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