Americans on Tuesday night saw a more aggressive President Obama in his second debate with Mitt Romney, as political analysts appeared split on a clear winner after predominantly giving Romney the edge in the first debate.
“I think it’s a split decision,” Democratic strategist Joe Trippi, a Fox News contributor, said after Tuesday's town hall-style debate at Hofstra University.
While both parties talked up their respective candidates, both sides appeared to agree the president -- as promised -- rose above his lackluster performance in the first debate. But both candidates took the tension up a notch in responding to voters' questions.
“This was a boxing match,” conservative columnist and Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer. “This was Frazier vs. Ali. This was a very tough fight.”
Krauthammer was also among those who awarded the decision to Obama on the basis that, despite another good performance from Romney, Obama was much improved.
Top Obama campaign advisers David Axelrod and Jen Psaki vowed all last weekend that Obama would be more aggressive in the debate in Hempstead, N.Y.
Romney’s performance in the Oct. 3 debate in Denver helped the Republican presidential nominee surge in battleground and national polls, which essentially meant the president could not afford a second bad performance.
“I was surprised at the confrontational style,” Trippi added. “Obama had a much stronger debate than he had last time. Democrats had to be happy with that.”
About three weeks remain until Election Day, and the final presidential debate is Monday at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.
Some commentators Tuesday night appeared more willing to declare outright winners.
“It was really clear that Romney played the bully and the president stood up to the bully,” MSNBC political analyst Al Sharpton said.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, meanwhile, said Obama “couldn’t defend the truth” on where the country is on two key issues – the economy and what happened in Libya last month that resulted in the killing of four Americans.
“I think that’s the story,” Priebus said.