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Who won, lost the debate? Sun-Times pundits break it down

Steve Huntley

Winner: Draw. In this debate, both candidates were on their game. Mitt Romney edged ahead early with anecdotes from the campaign trail about people suffering in the Obama economy. Romney also scored in outlining President Barack Obama’s broken promises: Deficit not cut in half; immigration reform not attempted; the stimulus program’s failure to create the jobs promised. Obama finished strong with a defense of his handling of Libya. Which candidate looked the most presidential: Both, though Obama seemed small when he tried to interrupt Romney several times and sounded harsh when he went on the attack. Romney was gentler in his criticism.

The biggest whopper of the night: Obama claims Romney wants employers to determine if women can get contraception.

Most dramatic moment: Obama danced around responsibility for the security failure in Libya before finally acknowledging that the buck stops at his desk and said it was offensive to suggest politics motivated his administration’s changing accounts of what happened in Libya. Romney was strong in citing the administration’s misleading statements and cited the upheavals across the Middle East and North Africa as evidence of the unraveling of Obama’s foreign policy.

Mark Brown

Winner: Romney President Barack Obama performed well, much better than the first debate, probably better than Mitt Romney. But Obama needed to knock Romney off his game to slow his momentum from the first debate. The people who started to warm up to Romney after the first debate will probably continue to do so based on this performance.

First missed opportunity: Obama sidestepped the question on whether it’s the federal government’s job to lower gas prices, but Romney fails to call him on it.

Cringe moment: Romney acts like the tough guy and cuts off Obama: “You’ll get your chance in a moment. I’m still speaking.” I’ll bet those people meters showed women reacting negatively.

Second cringe moment: When Romney cut him off, Obama sat down instead of standing his ground. All he needed to do was stand up there, shake his head and invade Romney’s space. Romney might have wigged. Obama looked weak instead of polite. Men won’t like to see him back off like that.

Deja vu moments: Obama: “We’ve gone through a tough four years, no doubt about it.” Didn’t he just say that a minute ago?

Romney: “I know what it takes to get the economy going.” Ditto.

Mary Mitchell

Winner: Obama President Barack Obama gets the nod on style and substance. Mitt Romney landed some sharp barbs, but he looked sinister doing it, especially when he tried to engage his audience.

The biggest flub of the night: Romney falsely accusing the president of not calling the Libya attack a terrorist attack — and having to be corrected by the moderator.

The cringe moment: When neither Obama nor Romney would stop talking at each other instead of to the audience. At times it looked like Romney and Obama were going to duke it out.

Phrase I got sick of hearing: Romney’s harping on trillions this and trillions that. Average Americans aren’t worrying about trillions; they’re worrying about their next paycheck, gas prices and how much milk costs.

The most shameless pandering: Romney: 3.5 million more women living in poverty in the same breath that he tries to sell his plan to cut middle-class taxes by focusing on capital gains, income and interest . . . all concerns for high-end earners.

Neil Steinberg

Winner: Obama, by a nose The president wasn’t in a coma like last time, but the heat was turned up from simmer to low medium. He pressed Romney’s buttons on taxes for the wealthy, cuts to Planned Parenthood. Romney was generally calm and unflappable, but he couldn’t escape his own positions.

Most tiresome habit: Both candidates carping for more time from Candy Crowley, talking over each other, wasting time in the process.

Best zinger: Obama: “Governor, you’re the last person who’s going to be tough on China.”

Clunking moment: Obama’s Big Bird shout out draws silence.

Worst body English: Obama is still nodding to Romney. “Yes, yes, governor, I shouldn’t be re-elected.” Get him a neck brace. Obama’s strongest moment: Taking Romney to task for politicizing Libyan consulate attack. “That’s not how a commander in chief operates. You don’t turn it into a political issue, particularly not right when it’s happening.”

Romney’s strongest moment: Pointing out Obama’s failures on immigration.



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