HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney engaged in a feisty debate at Hofstra University on Tuesday evening, with the candidates repeatedly interrupting each other and at certain points, attacking each other personally.
CBS News’ Scott Pelley called it “the most rancorous presidential debate ever,” with the candidates turning each question from the audience into an attack on the other.
“We were worried that Candy Crowley was going to have to get between the two men,” said CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell.
In a CBS News Instant Poll of uncommitted voters, 37 percent said President Obama won the second presidential debate, 30 percent said Romney won, while 33 percent called it a tie.
In one of the early heated moments, Romney said he has a five-point plan to create 12 million jobs, but Obama dismissed it all as a “one-point plan” that consists of protecting “those at the top.”
During the debate at the Mack Sports Complex at Hofstra University, the candidates answered the question of 20-year-old student Jeremy Epstein, who expressed concern that he would not be able to find a job when he finishes college.
Romney said the nation must ensure that students can afford college without assuming massive debt, and that when they get out of college, jobs are available. He blamed four years under the Obama administration for the failure to do so.
“What’s happened over the last four years has made it very, very hard for young people,” Romney said. “With half of college students graduating this year without a job, that’s just unacceptable – more debt and less jobs.”
Romney said he knows “what it takes to get good jobs again,” and blamed Obama for what he called a “curse” on the middle class for the past for years.
He said under Obama, 23 million people have been struggling to find a job, and while the unemployment rate has been flat at 7.8 percent, it would be 10.7 percent if it included people who dropped out of the workforce.
Romney cited his five-point plan for job creation as the solution. The plan, as articulated on Romney’s campaign Web site, calls for energy independence by 2020, a trade plan that would benefit America, better schools and access to education, cutting the deficit, and championing small business.
But Obama countered: “Governor Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan. He has a one-point plan, and that plan is to make sure the folks at the top play by a different set of rules.
“That’s been his philosophy in the private sector, that’s been his philosophy as governor, that will be his philosophy as president,” Obama said.
He pointed to criticism of Romney’s term at the helm of Bain Capital, which Obama said amounted to, “take a company and bankrupt it, lay off the workers, strip their pensions, and you still make money.”
Obama told Epstein his future was “bright.”
“The most important thing we can do is make sure we’re creating jobs in this country – not just jobs, good paying jobs; one where you can support a family,” Obama said.
He said 9 million jobs had been created in the private sector alone during his term, and he called for building manufacturing jobs again while accusing Romney of wanting to “let Detroit go bankrupt” without any means for the auto industry to survive.
He also said a solution would be “asking the wealthy to pay a little bit more, along with cuts, so we can invest in education like yours.”
Romney later added that he seeks to reduce tax rates for all tax brackets, and would not reduce taxes for top income earners.
“I want to bring the rates down. I want to simplify the tax code, and I want to get middle-income taxpayers to have lower taxes,” he said. “Middle-income taxpayers have been burned over the past four years.”
Middle-income people are in need of the tax break, while deductions and credits need to be reduced – particularly at the high end, Romney said.
Obama agreed that taxes on middle-class families and small businesses should be cut, and said he has done so. But he said keeping top earners’ income taxes the same was not enough, and that they need to be asked to pay more to keep the economy solvent.
Obama said under his plan, the first $250,000 worth of income would see no change on taxation, a policy which would benefit 98 percent of U.S. families and 97 percent of small businesses.
“One reason it’s not happening is that Governor Romney’s allies in Congress have held the 98 percent hostage because they want tax breaks for the top 2 percent,” Obama said.
Meanwhile, Romney later added that when Obama took office, 32 million people were on food stamps, while today, that figure has increased to 47 million.
“In the Reagan recession when unemployment hit 10.8 percent… Ronald Reagan’s administration created twice as many jobs,” he said.
He said Obama has “tried, but his policies haven’t worked.”
The candidates also exchanged barbs on energy policy, immigration reform, and women’s rights and health care — in which Obama slammed Romney’s vow to do away with funding for Planned Parenthood.
Who do you think won the debate? Leave your comments below…