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Romney and Obama duke it out at debate but both manage to stay in ring

FiOCTOBER 16: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama talk to each other during a town hall style debate at Hofstra University October 16, 2012 in Hempstead, New York. During the second of three presidential debates, the candidates fielded questions from audience members on a wide variety of issues. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)2012 Getty Images

Editor's note: Fox News contributors and others from both sides of the political spectrum offer their reviews of the second presidential debate between President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney. 

Some thoughts on tonight's debate: This didn't change the dynamic of the debate.

Both Obama and Romney had successes and both had shortcomings. Both got too eager and aggressive. Gov. Romney made a mistake asking questions. Never give your opponent opportunity to answer questions unless you can answer them for him. It was not a good night for President Obama because even if he scored debating points, he lost the argument.

The narrative going into this debate was that President Obama would come out more aggressive, on the offense. That sort of happened, but I think people looked at that and didn't really like it. 

Obama needed to dominate by having a vision and instead he came out tonight and went after Romney, which worked more to the disadvantage of the president than Romney. 

Elections are about the future and not the past and the status quo doesn't win elections. You have to say, I've done a good job and here are the changes that I'm going to fight for. Obama spent so much time defending what he'd done that he did not get a chance to lay out comprehensive vision for what he's going to do in the next four years.

-- Karl Rove, Fox News contributor 

President Obama had nowhere to go but up as his bar couldn't have been any lower after his last disastrous performance. However, Tuesday night he was hammered by Romney on his abysmal record on the economy and had a tough time coming back as an incumbent on the ropes.

Romney missed an opportunity to get a clean hit on Libya but the back and forth on phrasing is bad news for the president. It shifts the subject of Libya to the front burner which is the last place he wants it three weeks before election day.

Romney performed as well as he did last time, and wounded Obama on his failed policies. He did what he needed to do: show he can be president. Obama needed a decisive win and he didn't get one.

-- Andrea Tantaros, co-host, "The Five" and columnist, New York Daily News, conservative commentator

If Mitt Romney hopes to stay viable in this election, he better do more explaining and less interrupting.  And telling the truth would help, too!

-- Sally Kohn, writer and Fox News contributor

It was an entertaining, but not particularly edifying debate. At one point early on, it looked like the two of them might start grappling like they were in a MMA ring. 

President Obama couldn't have been worse than two weeks ago, and he wasn't. Mitt Romney was both on the defensive more and also occasionally too aggressive for his own good, but got his points across and had a particularly good answer that encapsulated in two-minutes the disappointments of the Obama presidency. 

This debate probably won't move the needle. We're still where we are after the last one, a tight race with Romney in a much stronger position than most people would have imagined a month ago.

-- Rich Lowry, editor in chief, National Review, author and columnist, Fox News contributor

Romney had another good night, but he does better when the other guy doesn't show up and President Obama showed up this time. Both sides have to be happy. Overall, I might give Obama a slight edge but I don't think this debate changed the dynamic of the race in the way the first did.

-- Joe Trippi, former Howard Dean campaign manager, Fox News contributor

President Obama delivered what he had to tonight, but was met by an equally strong Governor Romney who was comfortable and engaged in a format that was not assumed to play to his strength.  

Both men scored points on style and substance, with Romney emerging stronger on jobs, the economy, energy and Libya.  President Obama delivered a more robust defense of his record, which will satisfy the base, but did little in offering a credible case for four more years to persuadable voters.  I forecast a minimal impact on polls as a result.  Nonetheless, he avoids a Romney romp and lives to fight another day.  

-- Tony Sayegh, Republican political consultant

If this debate and election depends on women's votes then President Obama's debate performance will get those votes. The president came out strongly on the issue of women especially on the Lilly Ledbetter Act and how Gov. Romney's campaign did not respond to a question about that bill. 

The larger problem that women will have noticed, either consciously or unconsciously, is that Gov. Romney over talked moderator Candy Crowley, a woman. He was challenging to her and many women will be turned off by his behavior.

-- Ellen Ratner, Fox News contributor and Washington Bureau Chief, Talk Radio News Service

Leftists are rejoicing because President Obama showed up with a pulse this time. But Mitt Romney showed up with one too, and both men engaged in a spirited thrust-and-parry that was both enlightening and entertaining.  Obama ran away as fast as he could from the most disastrous aspects of his record: high unemployment, Libya, "Fast and Furious." But Romney missed some real opportunities to deliver a TKO of Obama, especially on the administration's Libyan cover-up lies and Obama's failure to address the issue of Fast and Furious at all. 

That said, I think Romney won the night because of his one simple message, stated with Reaganesque clarity: "We don't have to settle for this. We don't have to live like this." Indeed, we don't. The power to change it rests with us. And Romney made that abundantly clear.

-- Monica Crowley, Fox News contributor, author, "What the (Bleep) Just Happened" and nationally syndicated radio host  

President Obama was much better this time around. Confident and aggressive but not Biden-like-too-aggressive. Gov. Romney was steady but his face often looked strained. Romney blew it on the Rose Garden/Libya misstatement and Obama used the 47% very well at the end. 

Overall, Romney did well. But the president will be proclaimed the winner and "the Comeback Kid" by the media.

--John LeBoutillier, former New York Republican congressman and co-host, "Campaign Insiders" Sunday on Fox News Channel and Mondays at 10:30 am ET on FoxNews.com Live.

Tonight’s debate showed the enthused and focused President Obama who was missing in Denver. Both candidates performed well, with the governor winning the beginning of the debate on the economy and energy. 

Once the debate turned to social issues, Obama dominated. His defense of women’s rights and issues as well as his policy on immigration made Romney seem out of touch.

On Libya, Obama benefited from the fact that the debate turned on what the president said and when he said it, not the overall direction and approach of US policy. Obama avoided a huge political downside, especially when moderator Candy Crowley took upon herself to "clarify" what Obama said in the Rose Garden on the day after the Benghazi attacks.

Overall, tonight’s debate was a draw. Obama’s performance will be praised, but it remains to be seen if he will be able to regain the lead he built before the first debate.

-- Doug Schoen, Democratic pollster, co-host, "Campaign Insiders" Sunday on Fox News Channel and Mondays at 10:30 am ET on FoxNews.com Live, author, Fox News contributor.

President Obama , being the competitor that he is on the basketball court and golf course, fought back last night and stopped the bleeding by the debate performance of his life. He looked into the abyss after his disastrous first debate, and stood toe to toe with an opponent who had humiliated him and trounced him in the first debate.

Mitt Romney, gave another superb performance, but with the president battling toe to toe, had to make his points with a worthy opponent who was not missing in action as he was in Denver. The country benefited by a debate worthy of the ages. Both men fought back, were confident, made their points, argued with a passion, and yet somehow remained civil. If you're for the president's reelection, you breathed a sigh of relief and a cheer at the end. If you are for Mitt Romney, you were again convinced you are supporting a worthy challenger. Both men were knowledgeable, articulate, backed their arguments up with facts, and stayed calm under fire. What you saw clearly was two views of the next direction of the country. I cant wait for round three.

--Ed Rollins, Fox News contributor, Republican strategist and former Huckabee presidential campaign manager.