Entries in Debate (97)


Obama Hits Romney for Not Mentioning Vets at Debate

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(DAYTON, Ohio) -- President Obama twice chastised Mitt Romney on the trail Tuesday for failing to mention veterans in Monday night’s debate, in a further attempt to drive a wedge between Romney and supporters of the military.

The criticism comes on the heels of repeated observations by Democrats that Romney failed to mention U.S. troops in Afghanistan during his acceptance speech at the Republican convention.

“By the way, I just want to point out, in the same way that Governor Romney didn’t mention the Afghan war or our troops in his convention speech, Governor Romney didn’t even mention our veterans last night,” Obama told supporters at a rally in Delray Beach, Fla., Tuesday. “Now, he may write off half the country as victims behind closed doors, but the men and women and their families who have served this country so bravely — they deserve better from somebody who’s applying to be commander-in-chief.”

“When our veterans come home, let’s put them back to work in some of these jobs. Let’s make sure we’re serving them as well as they’ve served us. Governor Romney did not even mention our veterans last night,” the president reiterated at his campaign event in Dayton.

For his part, Obama uttered the word “veteran” six times at the third presidential debate.

“As commander-in-chief, I will maintain the strongest military in the world, keep faith with our troops and go after those who would do us harm. But after a decade of war, I think we all recognize we’ve got to do some nation building here at home, rebuilding our roads, our bridges and especially caring for our veterans, who sacrificed so much for our freedom,” he said Monday night.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Whoppers, Bayonets and Zingers in Final Presidential Debate

Marc Serota/Getty Image(BOCA RATON, Fla.) -- President Obama was on the offensive during the third and final presidential debate Monday night, hitting Mitt Romney for shifting on foreign policy positions and pointedly telling Romney, "Every time you've offered an opinion you've been wrong."

Romney agreed with Obama during much of the debate that concentrated on foreign policy, but had sharp words for the president on the Middle East, saying the president "wasted these four years" by failing to stop Iran's nuclear program and allowing the Middle East to descend into "tumult."

He congratulated Obama on tracking and killing al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, but added, "We can't kill our way out of this mess."

The president at one point defended his tenure, saying flatly, "America is stronger now than when I came into office."

See the full debate transcript HERE.

Meeting at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., the two candidates sat at a table next to each other and across from moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News, an arrangement that allowed for less of the dramatic finger pointing and circling that made for fireworks in last week's matchup in New York.

There were, however, plenty of zingers.

When Romney accused the president of cutting back on military spending by noting the U.S. Navy had fewer ships today than in World War I, Obama shot back: "Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed."

He also said in an almost derisive tone, "We also have things called aircraft carriers that planes land on and submarines that go under water."

Schieffer said Monday night's debates comes on the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's address to the nation on the Cuban Missile Crisis when the U.S. and Russia were on the verge of nuclear war. It also took place just over a month since Islamic terrorists attacked the U.S. consulate in Libya, killing four, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the U.N. that Iran is less than a year away from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Obama, who has made the killing of bin Laden a cornerstone of his campaign, attacked Romney for failing to recognize the threat al Qaeda continues to present to the peace and security of the United States.

"Gov. Romney, I'm glad that you recognize that al Qaeda is a threat because a few months ago when you were asked what's the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia....The 1980s, they're now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War's been over for 20 years," Obama sniped.

Romney responded with his own venom, reminding the president he was caught late last year on an open mic telling the Russians he would have more flexibility following the election.

"Russia does continue to battle us in the U.N. time and time again. I have clear eyes on this. I'm not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia, or Mr. Putin. And I'm certainly not going to say to him, I'll give you more flexibility after the election," Romney said. He said that Putin would face "more backbone."

Romney said, as he did in the earlier debates, that Obama began his administration by going on an "apology tour" to Arab countries. This time, Obama was ready for him.

"Nothing Gov. Romney just said is true, starting with this notion of me apologizing. This has been probably the biggest whopper that's been told during the course of this campaign," the president said.

But for much of the debate Romney struck a softer tone Monday night than he has in recent weeks, both in his demeanor and the policies which he was advocating. Romney, who scored points for being aggressive in the first debate, and advocated a hawkish foreign policy in the first months of the campaign, Monday said America should spread its influence in the world not through its military but through soft-power diplomatic solutions.

"We don't want another Iraq, we don't want another Afghanistan," Romney said, adding that investment in Muslim countries would help stem the rise of Islamic extremism.

The two men at times seemed to agree as much they disagreed. Both said they would stand with Israel if it were attacked by Iran, and both say they will withdraw troops from Afghanistan by 2014.

President Obama called the restive civil war in Syria "heartbreaking," but said the U.S. should not send troops into the conflagration. Romney essentially agreed, but said the U.S. should send weapons to the insurgents.

Obama noted that he had ended the war in Iraq and was scaling back troop deployments in Afghanistan.

"After a decade of war we have to do some nation building here at home," he said.

Locked in a virtual dead heat, the candidates at times turned to the domestic issues -- particularly the economy and jobs -- they believe both distinguish them from each other and about which voters are more worried.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Wins Twitter War with ‘Horses and Bayonets’

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- President Obama won Monday night’s Twitter war with the weapons of yore, replying to Mitt Romney’s complaint that the Navy will soon see its smallest fleet since 1917 by saying, “We also have fewer horses and bayonets.”

“We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them,” Obama cheekily informed Romney. "We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”

But even as the Republican challenger’s advisers tried to bounce the “zinger” back at the president — top aide Stu Stevens called the line demeaning to the military — Twitter sprung into meme-making mode.

By 9:45 p.m. ET, the microblog was seeing 105,767 tweets per minute (out of 6.5 million total) reporting or riffing on Obama’s taunt. More than a half hour after the debate, #horsesandbayonets was still going strong, trending worldwide.

Esquire politics writer Charlie Pierce chimed in to list “things we also have fewer of,” among them: “pikes, blunderbusses, flintlocks, and stone knives.”

Within minutes, @RomneyBinders, a creation of Romney’s boast during the previous debate that, as Massachusetts governor, he had picked his female cabinet officers from “binders full of women,” changed its handle to @HorsesBayonette. The merged account had more than 34,200 followers by midnight.

By 11 p.m., the rest of the Internet was playing catch up, vaulting “horses and bayonets” to the top of Google’s “Top 5 Rising Searches” list, right ahead of “Syria” and “drones.”

Tumblr got moving a little later, with appearing and beginning to aggregate some of the more clever memes that had been accumulating on the web.

“The Most Interesting Man in The World” made a late appearance on the site. “I don’t always fight wars,” the often-spoofed Dos Equis beer ad character begins, “But when I do, I use horses and bayonets.”

Earlier in the debate, Obama deployed a put-down of a more recent vintage while harping on Romney’s past comment that Russia “is without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe.”

The 1980s are “calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years,” Obama said, before accusing Romney of wanting “to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.”


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Debate Ahead, Romney Gains on Int’l Affairs, Continues to Lag on Economic Priorities

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GettyImages(NEW YORK) -- Mitt Romney carries newfound competitiveness in trust to handle international issues into the final presidential debate, combined with his highest personal popularity of the 2012 campaign. But continued weakness in his perceived economic priorities is keeping the race a close one.

Among other shifts, after last week’s second debate, which included a spirited exchange on women in the workplace, the contest now has its largest gender gap of the season -- a 14-point lead for Barack Obama among women, vs. a 12-point advantage for Romney among men.

The result, as in previous ABC News/Washington Post polls since late summer, is essentially a dead heat between the candidates overall. In the first of what will be daily ABC/Post tracking polls for the rest of the contest, 49 percent of likely voters back Obama, 48 percent Romney.

See PDF with full results and charts here.

With Monday night’s debate focused on foreign policy, the poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds Romney virtually tied with Obama in trust to handle international affairs (49-46 percent, Obama-Romney) and terrorism (47-46 percent), as well as to serve as commander-in-chief of the armed services (48-45 percent). That reflects a shift in Romney’s favor; Obama led on terrorism by 11 points as recently as Sept. 29, and on international affairs by seven points earlier this month.

In another milestone for Romney, 50 percent of likely voters express a favorable opinion of him overall, while 47 percent see him unfavorably -- his highest popularity score of the season, and one of the rare times he’s been numerically above water in this measure. His personal popularity now roughly matches Obama’s 52-46 percent favorable-unfavorable.

While more pick Obama as the winner of the second debate, these advances for Romney appear to reflect a carryover effect of his first debate performance. Overall, 37 percent of likely voters say their opinion of Romney has improved as a result of the two debates, double the 19 percent who think less of him. Obama gets just an even split, 15 percent to 18 percent, better-worse. (The rest say the debates haven’t changed their views of the candidates -- 65 percent in Obama’s case, 43 percent in Romney’s).

Still, Obama clawed back some ground in the second debate -- he’s seen as having won it by 48-29 percent, compared with Romney’s 71-17 percent in the first debate. And the number of likely voters with a better opinion of Obama as a result of the two debates has advanced from eight percent after the first debate to, as noted, 15 percent after the second. Those results underscore what’s at stake in the candidate’s last face-off Monday night.

CHALLENGES – While Romney shows momentum on some underlying attributes, he also still faces some fundamental challenges. Obama is benefitting from slightly improving economic attitudes; as many likely voters now say the economy is improving as say it’s worsening, 37 percent vs. 36 percent, numerically positive for the first time since spring in comparable data.

Most strikingly, a majority continues to think Romney, if elected, would favor the wealthy rather than the middle class, by 54-33 percent. Obama, by contrast, consistently has been seen by an overwhelming majority, now 66-15 percent, as having done more to favor the middle class than the wealthy.

Overcoming this perception may be Romney’s single biggest challenge ahead; one complication in his addressing it is Obama’s advantage in two other areas: Better understanding the economic problems of average Americans, on which the president leads Romney by seven points; and honesty and trustworthiness, on which Obama’s up by nine.

ISSUES and APPROVAL – Obama has an unusual advantage on another issue, again likely reflecting skepticism about Romney’s economic priorities: In trust to handle taxes, typically a better issue for Republican candidates, Obama leads by 11 percentage points, 53-42 percent -- the president’s biggest lead on taxes all season.

Obama also is competitive with Romney in trust to handle the deficit, (49-45 percent, Romney-Obama); that’s tightened from a wide Romney advantage in the spring and summer, perhaps reflecting some impact from Obama’s continued criticisms of Romney’s budget numbers. Obama, moreover, leads by 12 points on handling Medicare and by 13 points in trust to handle women’s issues. Women prefer Obama on women’s issues by a wide 18 points; men, by seven.

On trust to handle the economy -- the election’s top issue and Obama’s greatest vulnerability -- it’s another virtual dead heat, 48-46 percent, Romney-Obama.

Still, Obama’s job approval rating overall is 50 percent among likely voters, a point short of a majority. In historical terms, that can be adequate to win re-election (George W. Bush and, possibly, Harry S. Truman), but certainly not comfortably so.

While there have been shifts under the surface, it’s notable how little overall preferences have changed in this contest: Obama’s support among likely voters has been between 47 and 49 percent steadily since just before the conventions; Romney’s, 46 to 49 percent. And likely voter definitions with different turnout estimates produce essentially identical horse race results.

STATES and GROUPS – As well as close overall, the contest stands at 51-47 percent, Romney-Obama, in the nine battleground states designated by the ABC News Political Unit -- well within the margin of sampling error, and not significantly different from the mid-month 51-46 percent, Obama-Romney, in these same states. But regardless of sampling error, the bigger number now is Romney’s, another indication of the competitiveness he’s showing.

Obama has a little pushback on another metric: The share of his supporters who describe themselves as “very enthusiastic” has advanced to 64 percent, his highest of the season, and matching his level at this time in 2008 (but below his peak that year). Romney’s strong enthusiasm, at 58 percent, is numerically off its peak at mid-month, after the first debate.

Among groups, again perhaps reflecting the second debate, this poll finds a shift in Obama’s direction among college-educated white women. They go for Obama over Romney by 55-42 percent now, vs. a preference for Romney by almost an identical margin, 56-42 percent, in mid-October. Other slight shifts mitigate the overall impact -- Romney’s gained among white men, especially among those who lack a college degree -- but it explains the wider gender gap.

Romney leads by 15 points among whites overall, while Obama comes back with a vast 78-19 percent advantage among non-whites. There’s a hardening at the ideological poles, with Obama and Romney at their highest support of the campaign among liberals and “very” conservatives, respectively (88 percent of liberals for Obama, 89 percent of very conservatives for Romney). The fight’s among moderates, now +16 points for Obama, and somewhat conservatives, +37 for Romney.

There’s also extreme polarization among Democrats and Republicans, with a scant three-point difference between the candidates among independents, 49 percent for Romney, 46 percent for Obama. A slight five-point turnout advantage for Democrats makes the race essentially tied -- and, if nothing breaks open, makes turnout the key to the 2012 race. Turnout’s especially important since a third of likely voters say they plan to vote early -- including five percent who already have.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Breaking for Staff, Press Football Game, Mitt Romney Ignores Questions on Iran, Debates and Polls

Alex Wong/Getty Images(DELRAY BEACH, Fla.) -- Mitt Romney stopped by a football game between members of his staff and the press this afternoon, declining to take questions on Iran, the debate or polls, during a rare break from debate prep.

“Let’s see, look at the captain,” said Romney, walking onto the beach across the street from the Delray Beach, Florida hotel where he’s spent time preparing for Monday evening’s debate. Romney and his wife Ann spent the morning at church, but shortly after returning, the Republican nominee opted to pop by the game.

As he stood and watched the first play, reporters peppered him with questions.

Asked if he would be open to one-on-one talks with Iran, a reference to the White House shooting down a story yesterday in the New York Times that the administration had agreed to the talks, an aide quickly jumped in, “Guys this is a football game, come on.”

“I thought you were talking about one-on-one talks with the President, I was about to answer,” Romney said, laughing.

Another reporter asked Romney if he feels ready for Monday’s debate, to which Romney responded, “Ready for football!”

When asked about this morning poll that showed him in a dead heat nationally with the president, Romney ignored the question altogether.

Prior to the start of the game, Romney conducted the coin toss between a reporter and his communications director, Gail Gitcho. The reporters won the toss – correctly calling “tails.”

“Tails it is! That’s the last call you guys are getting,” Romney said to the group of reporters. “Who’s the ringer over here. Who is it, who is it?”

Then, poking fun at New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was not on hand for today’s game, Romney said, “Where’s Chris Christie when we need him? He’s our line.”

Romney led a team huddle among his staff, which included much of his senior brass – Bob White, Senior advisers Peter Flaherty, Ron Kaufman, Eric Fehrnstrom and debate prep partner Sen. Rob Portman. Romney lead them in a team cheer, referencing the popular quote “Clear Eyes Can’t Lose” from the television series “Friday Night Lights,” and then offered some advice to the team:

“Figure out which of their players is best and take them out early,” he said. “That’s right, don’t worry about injuries guys, this counts. Win.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Minor Candidates to Debate Tuesday

Eugene Gologursky/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- If unenthusiastic voters aren’t satisfied with Monday’s final presidential debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney, they should take comfort: There will be more debating to be had, with an entirely different set of men doing the talking.

Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson and three other non-major-party presidential candidates will debate on Tuesday, a day after Obama and Romney square off, with former CNN host Larry King moderating their debate of alternatives at the Hilton Chicago.

The debate will feature the Libertarian Party nominee Johnson, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode, and Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson.

The debate is being organized by the Free and Equal Elections Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit group founded to “give every candidate a fair chance at winning their respective elections” and “allow voters to vote for a candidate that best represents their values and beliefs.”

No major networks will carry it -- at least no major American networks. It will stream online at three outlets:, where King now hosts a show; Russian English-language network Russia Today; and the Free and Equal Elections Foundation website.

None of these candidates were invited to square off with President Obama and Mitt Romney in the series of debates hosted by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Ross Perot was the last third-party candidate to appear in those forums, in 1992.

“We are honored to have Larry King moderate this historic debate,” Christina Tobin, founder of the Free and Equal Elections Foundation, said in a written statement released by the group this week. “The previous debates between President Obama and Governor Romney have failed to address the issues that really concern everyday Americans. From foreign policy, to the economy, to taboo subjects like our diminishing civil liberties and the drug war, Americans deserve a real debate, real solutions and real electoral options.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Biden Knocks Romney for Binder Comment, '1950s Time Warp’ on Women

T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images(GREELEY, Colo.) -- Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday hammered away at Mitt Romney over women’s issues, saying the former Massachusetts governor is living in a “1950s time warp” and mocking his reliance on “binders full of women” to find qualified women to serve on his cabinet.

“You heard the debate last night,” Biden told a crowd of more than 1,000 at the Island Grove Regional Park Exhibition Hall in Greeley, Colorado. “When Gov. Romney was asked a direct question about equal pay, he started talking about binders. Whoa! The idea that he had to go and ask where a qualified woman was, he just should have come to my house. He didn’t need a binder."

“For good measure, Romney said, on multiple occasions, that he wants to get rid of Planned Parenthood,” Biden added. “Look, talk about being out of touch. It’s not just the Swiss bank accounts and the Cayman Islands. No, really isn’t. It’s more than that. That I understand him doing. I can’t understand someone running for president doing [it], but I can understand him doing it. … But what I can’t understand is how he has gotten in this sort of 1950s time warp in terms of women.”

Biden continued to criticize Romney’s stance on equal pay, saying “he didn’t answer the question” when asked about it during Tuesday night’s debate and noted a Romney adviser said the Massachusetts governor did not support the The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which countered pay discrimination based upon age, religion, national origin, race, sex and disability.

“His senior adviser said last night in -- they call it the spin room -- when Romney was asked about, when they’re asked about did Romney support Lilly Ledbetter, which is just basic, minimal justice, he said Romney would have vetoed it.”

The vice president lauded President Obama’s performance at Tuesday’s presidential debate at Hofstra University in New York, calling the president a “man of principle, a man of gumption, a man with a steady hand and a clear vision.

“That’s what America got to see last night,” he said. “And I am telling you, it’s presumptive of me to say as vice president, but I am proud of him.”

Biden pointed out that Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., have shied away from offering specifics in the past three debates.

“Gov. Romney was a little, how can I say it -- sketchy?” Biden said. “No details, no specifics. But folks, that’s not new. We’ve now had three debates. Gov. Romney twice, Congressman Ryan once -- and the answers are always the same: ‘Maybe. It depends. We’ll let you know after the election.’ Folks, these are the only guys I’ve ever heard, out of any guys I’ve ever met, who thought that not telling you now, but telling you after the election, constituted leadership.”

While he delivered his normal criticisms of Romney and Ryan’s tax plan and creating incentives for companies to invest overseas, Biden focused heavily on immigration, saying Romney’s stance on the issue shows he’s “out of touch with the American people.”

“They support the action taken by the president to lift the cloud of deportation off a million kids that were brought here -- as if they’re going to say, at 2-years-old, ‘Mom, I don’t want to cross that border. Leave me behind, Mom. That’s what I want to do,’” he said. “And now, these guys are talking about these bright young kids and going to send them home. Home? Home? This is home. This is home. America is home. They didn’t choose to come here, but they chose to do right by America, and the president believes it’s time to do right by them.”

Biden ribbed Romney for his suggestion that undocumented immigrants should self-deport.

“Self-deportation?” he asked. “Whoa. Every 13-year-old, get up and move, man.”

Biden, who was campaigning alongside Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., has visited Colorado five times as vice president. But Wednesday’s trip marked his first visit of 2012. Biden encouraged Colorado voters to vote early and assured them that a victory in Colorado will win Obama and Biden the election.

“Folks, we need you, because together we can win Colorado -- and we win Colorado, we win this election,” Biden said. “So let’s go. Let’s stand up. We’re going to win. Let’s move forward. God bless you all and may God protect our troops.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Camp Touts Libya Exchange as Key Moment in Debate

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama campaign Wednesday touted the president’s back-and-forth with Mitt Romney on Libya Tuesday night as “one of the best moments in recent debate history,” as the White House continued to defend the Obama administration’s handling of the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

“The president made clear that being commander-in-chief is about being a leader and not about political gamesmanship,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters traveling with president aboard Air Force One Wednesday.

Romney was “exposed as the guy who wanted to use Libya, use the tragedy overseas as a political football,” she added.

Speaking at the second presidential debate, the GOP nominee attacked the president for his administration’s changing characterizations of the assault, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

“There were many days that passed before we knew whether this was a spontaneous demonstration or, actually, whether it was a terrorist attack,” Romney said.

The Obama administration initially suggested the assault was linked to broader unrest in the region sparked by an amateur anti-Muslim film, but later admitted it was not precipitated by an anti-American protest at the consulate and termed it a “terrorist attack.”

At the debate, Obama noted that the day after the attack he delivered a statement in the White House Rose Garden describing it as “an act of terror.”

“I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror,” Romney said, to which the moderator, CNN’s Candy Crowley, corrected that Obama “did, in fact” call it an act of terror.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday that Obama was specifically talking about the Benghazi attack when he mentioned “acts of terror” in his Rose Garden speech.

“Any time an embassy or diplomatic facility is attacked by force with weapons and Americans are killed, that is an act of terror,” Carney said. “It was not an accident that the president spoke of acts of terror in the Rose Garden.”

Further, Carney said, Obama mentioned it as terror on several more occasions “within the next several days,” and he reiterated again that the administration has been as transparent and forthcoming as it can be given the nature of the attack and intelligence gathering in its aftermath.

Asked why, if it had been so transparent, were questions still mounting about the administration’s handling of the situation, Carney offered two reasons. One, the intelligence has evolved and changed over time, Carney said. And, two, he said, “There was a clear attempt from the hours after the attack in Benghazi by critics of the president led by Gov. Romney to try to score political points out of this tragedy.”

Pressed as to why the administration felt the need for both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama, over the last few days, to clarify that they were ultimately responsible for the U.S. response to the attack, Carney partially blamed their political foes.

“In part, because of the effort by Republicans to politicize [the issue],” Carney said, “but also because this is a very serious and tragic incident.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mitt Romney Changes Argument on Contraception at Debate

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It doesn’t quite have the same ring as “binders full of women,” but a comment Mitt Romney made during Tuesday’s presidential debate about contraception has added fuel to the narrative that he has adopted more moderate policy positions in the final weeks of the campaign.

“I don’t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not, and I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they can have contraceptive care or not,” Romney said. “Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives, and the president’s statement of my policy is completely and totally wrong.”

That comment appeared to be inconsistent with previous remarks Romney has made during the campaign about contraception.  Those previous comments have been used by the Obama campaign to portray Romney as a bad choice for women.

Under Obama’s Affordable Care Act, all employers were initially required to provide contraception. A compromise later made religious organizations exempt, though not affiliated institutions such as Catholic hospitals and colleges.

In February, when that compromise was reached, Romney called it “an assault on religious conviction.”

“I find it extraordinary that [President Obama] feels he can tell the Catholic Church what they have to provide for their employees, including devices and instruments they find contrary to their conscience,” Romney said at a town hall in Maine.

In August, he doubled down, running a television ad that accused the White House of declaring a “war on religion.”

“President Obama used his health care plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith,” the ad said. “Mitt Romney believes that’s wrong.”

Bill Donahue of the Catholic League, a group that has been critical of the contraception clause of the Affordable Health Act, said Romney’s comments at the debate “could be read as being inconsistent.”

However, Donahue gave him the benefit of the doubt.

“I think Romney meant that employers should be allowed to make that decision [to provide contraception] on their own, without the federal government telling them they have to provide it,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama and Romney Get Fired Up in Heated Second Debate

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Circling each other like boxers at times and looking one another in the eye, President Obama and Mitt Romney came out swinging as soon as Monday night's debate began, sparring over Libya, energy production, and an assault weapons ban.

At one point during a particularly heated exchange, Romney snapped when Obama tried to interrupt, "I'm still speaking."

An another point, Obama said Romney's insinuation that his administration played politics with the deaths of four Americans in Libya was "offensive."

Obama, whose performance at the first debate two weeks ago was roundly considered to be lackluster, tried to make up lost ground Monday night.

[READ the Debate Transcript]

Within the first 20 minutes of the debate, the president repeatedly accused Romney of stretching the truth, attacking Romney's comments, for example, about job creation, as "just not true."

Veteran political commentator George Will did not pick a winner, but said it was a great debate.

"I have seen every presidential debate in American history since Nixon and Kennedy in 1960. This was immeasurably the best," Will said.

In a particularly heated exchange, Romney said the president failed to immediately call the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya that left four Americans dead an act of terror. The Republicans have hammered the administration's failure to either recognize it as a terror attack or admit that it was a terror attack.

The president, however, said he appeared in the Rose Garden the day after the attack and called the killing a terror attack. When Romney argued that it was not true, moderator Candy Crowley stepped in to say the president had called the attack terrorism the next day.

"Say that a little louder, Candy," Obama called out.

The audience, which had been watching the two men contradict each other and interrupt each other, began to applaud.

Obama also said at a later point, looking over at Romney, "The suggestion that anyone on my team would play politics (after four Americans died) is offensive."

The two tangled over energy policies, with Obama claiming the country has produced more oil, gas and coal than what was produced under President George W. Bush, "and he was an oil man," Obama said.

Romney insisted the Obama administration has cut the number of licenses to drill on federal land, while Obama said he has taken licenses away from companies that were simply sitting on the drilling licenses and not using them so they could be given to other drillers.

Both men were off their stools talking into microphones and trying to talk over each other, insisting the other man was wrong.

When Romney eventually wrangled the floor to himself, Obama tried to interject, prompting Romney to snap, "You'll get your chance in a moment. I am still speaking."

The candidates cut each other off, sometimes jumping out of their chairs and arguing with Crowley to get more time. Their exchanges were marked with cutting comments like, "Very little of what Gov. Romney just said is true," and Romney facing Obama to say, "Here's a bit of advice."

Obama, who looked down during much of the first debate, kept his eyes on Romney and often leaned forward as if eager for his turn to speak.

Some pundits who believed that the town hall structure of Monday night's debate, in which 80 undecided voters made up the audience and some asked questions of the candidates, would keep them from being aggressive were quickly proven wrong.

"I understand the stakes here," said Crowley, CNN's chief political correspondent, in an effort to put some order on the debate.

Romney, who has been stiff on the trail but has come off as poised and confident in the debates, repeatedly attacked the president's stewardship.

He highlighted the country's budget deficit. "The president said he'd cut the deficit in half, instead he doubled it. This puts us on a road to Greece," Romney said.

There are "23 million people struggling to find a job....The president's policies have been exercised over the last four years and they haven't put America back to work," Romney said. "We have fewer people working today than when he took office."

Obama mocked Romney's often-cited "five point plan" to lower taxes in an effort to end the deficit, saying it was lacking in detail.

"Gov. Romney doesn't have a five point plan," the president said. "He has a one point plan, that people at the top play by different rules."

"We haven't heard from the governor any specifics beyond Big Bird and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood in terms of how he pays for that," he said.

The president also said that he would like to see an assault weapons ban reintroduced. The campaign and other Democrats have stayed away from the guns issue this campaign, even after the slaughter in the movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

"Weapons designed for soldiers in war do not belong on our streets," Obama said.

Romney said he was not in favor of new laws, but that we needed to change "the culture of violence."

That led Obama to remind Romney that he had supported an assault weapons ban as governor of Massachusetts.

"He was for an assault weapons ban before he was against it," Obama said.

At the end of the debate, each candidate was asked to debunk a misperception about themselves. Romney seized the opportunity to strike back at the Democratic talking point that he did not care about 47 percent of the country.

"I care about 100 percent of the American people," said Romney.

The 47 percent came from a covertly recorded tape of Romney telling big bucks backers that 47 percent of Americans don't pay taxes and expect the government to take care of them.

Obama took the chance to unload on Romney. The president said Romney is "a good man ... but when he says behind closed doors he believes 47 percent of Americans are ... who do you think he's talking about?"

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