President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate and
 former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney participate in the
second presidential debate at Hofstra University (Credit: ABC)

The gloves came off in the second presidential debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney, and it was clear after 90-plus minutes that each man actively disliked the other.

Unlike the first debate, there was no knockout punch, despite the fact that a lot more blows were thrown, but Obama will be happier that he finally went toe to toe with Romney, unlike his insipid performance in the first debate.

Obama won the debate on several key issues and the CNN poll showing a 46 per cent than 39 per cent for Obamawas about right.

On Libya, Obama had his best moment of the debate, one that drew applause from the audience when he accused Romney of playing politics with the tragedy of our ambassador and three of his aides who were killed in a terrorist attack in Benghazi last month.

Conservative bloggers were hoping all night that the Libya question would be raised, but when it was, Romney fluffed it, giving an incorrect version of what the president said in the White House Rose Garden the day after the attack.

Obama’sother best moments were on women’s issues and also strangely linked to foreign policy when he talked about ending the war in Iraq, killing Osama bin Laden, and drawing down our troops in Afghanistan.

Romney’s strong moments came when he listed a litany of broken promises Obamamade before he became president, but failed to keep after taking office.

Overall, however, Romney seemed far less at ease than he was in the first debate, and it seemed clear that the town hall format didn’t suit him as well as lining up at a lectern CEO style without intervention from an audience.

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The question remains whether last night’s debate will move the needle for Obama even a point or two in what has become an extremely tight election.

Democrats have a better ground game than Republicans.Obama had no primary challenger, and the Democrats were able to marshal their forces across the country and focus on issues like early voting and absentee ballots which experts say are trending in their direction.

But Obama’sbiggest fear must be that enough Americans will decide that it is time for a change, and that Romney has performed sufficiently well to trust him with that change.

If that occurs, a great debate performance may not change enough minds.

With 21 days to go until Election Day, the odds still favorObama because of the Electoral College math and the fact that he continues to hold slight but consistent leads in key states like Ohio.

There was a sense before this debate that momentum had shifted significantly to Romney.

Afterwards it was clear that most observers believe that Obama did enough to stop that slide.
But it would be a brave person to call this election with under three weeks to go.

There are still mistakes to be made, accusations to take flight, and who knows, maybe even another October surprise.