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.

Live text


  • Adam Blenford 
  • Taylor Brown 
  • Tom Geoghegan 

Last updated 17 October 2012


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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."


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.


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.