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Nation/World

October 17, 2012

Crackling debate for Obama, Romney

(Continued)

Both men had rehearsed extensively for the encounter, a turnabout for Obama.

“I had a bad night,” the president conceded, days after he and Romney shared a stage for the first time, in Denver. His aides made it known he didn’t intend to be as deferential to his challenger this time, and the presidential party decamped for a resort in Williamsburg, Va., for rehearsals that consumed the better part of three days.

Romney rehearsed in Massachusetts and again after arriving on Long Island on debate day, with less to make up for.

Asked last night by one member of the audience how he would differ from former President George W. Bush, the last Republican to hold the office, Romney said, “We are different people and these are different times.”

He said he would attempt to balance the budget, something Bush was unsuccessful in doing, get tougher on China and work more aggressively to expand trade.

Obama jumped in with his own predictions — not nearly as favorable to the man a few feet away on stage. He said the former president didn’t attempt to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood or turn Medicare into a voucher system.

Though the questions were from undecided voters inside the hall — in a deeply Democratic state — the audience that mattered most watched on television and was counted in the tens of millions. Crucially important: viewers in the nine battlegrounds where the race is likely to be settled.

The final debate, next Monday in Florida, will be devoted to foreign policy.

Opinion polls made the race a close one, with Obama leading in some national surveys and Romney in others. Despite the Republican’s clear gains in surveys in recent days, the president led in several polls of Wisconsin and Ohio, two key Midwestern battlegrounds where Romney and running mate Paul Ryan are campaigning heavily.

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