HEMPSTEAD, New York — What a difference two weeks makes. After President Obama was criticized for his tepid performance in the first presidential debate, he came out guns blazing at Long Island's Hofstra University in Tuesday night's (October 16) second showdown with rival Mitt Romney.
The men mixed it up on a variety of topics, from the high price of gas to the cost of college tuition, equal pay for women, immigration and gun control, with both candidates jockeying to have their voices heard and taking every opportunity to jab the other's policies.
The fight never ends there, though. Even before the debate was over, surrogates for both sides were rushing to the "spin zone" in the media center — many lofting red or blue signs with the names of senators, congressman and other supporters — in an effort to tell the media how and why their candidate won.
MTV News' Power of 12 circled back to a pair of Hofstra underclassmen, 18-year-old political science major and Romney supporter Dion Pierre and 21-year-old journalism major and Obama supporter Sidney Madden, to get their take on the debate.
"[President Obama] was poignant, strategic, skillful and classic Obama," said Madden, who was very happy with how the incumbent rebounded from the first debate.
"I agree with Sidney, it was classic Obama," countered Pierre. "The president had nice zingy one-liners ... but the president still failed to tell America why he doubled the national debt, why our trade deficits are increasing, why our national debt's increasing, why it took us 44 months to get back to the same unemployment he had when he got in."
The night's first question was about college affordability and Madden said she was very pleased with how the president tackled the issue, praising his specificity and calling out what she described as Romney's more vague, "general" answer. Pierre, who attended the debate, appeared inspired by his preferred candidate, pivoting from the education question to a critique of Obama's "job killing" tax plan.
"Where's a job for me, where's a job for Sidney when she gets out of college?" he asked. "The president's policies are killing jobs."
Pierre wasn't the only one who took a page from the Obama/Romney playbook. After he hit back at Madden's comment about Romney's offshore bank accounts, Pierre hit her with a thrust about Obama's offshore investments followed by a parry about high corporate taxes forcing firms to move overseas. She then responded with a dart about Romney not being as familiar with the world of small business as he would like voters to believe.
"He was a member of the private sector, big business, he's not in touch with the small businessman," she countered.
They could have gone on all night like that, but our MTV News moderator, "World of Jenks" star Andrew Jenks, asked them to agree to disagree and focus on what their candidate did right on Tuesday night.
"In comparison to the first debate, I love how Obama did not let Romney get away with anything," said Madden. "He didn't let him tell lies ... he wasn't letting him command the stage. I believe Obama stayed on topic, he respected the moderator, he respected the audience and he not only played to his party base, but he spoke to everyone. He spoke to the moderates, he spoke to the undecided and he swayed a lot more people in this debate."
Pierre said Romney did what he said a lot of Americans wish they could do. "Come face-to-face with the president over his failed economic policies and let the American people know that big speeches don't really turn in the results," he said. "He called the president out on his economic policies ... he called the president out on his plans that hurt small businesses, that are going to raise taxes."
The candidates will go at it one more time on Monday in Boca Raton, Florida during their final debate and MTV News will be there to bring you all the action.
How do you think Obama and Romney did in Tuesday night's debate? Let us know in comments below.
Check out all our coverage of Tuesday's presidential debate and stick with MTV's Power of 12 throughout the 2012 election season.