The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

October 16, 2012

Obama-Romney II, three weeks before the election

— HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) — President Barack Obama sought a steadier showing, while Republican challenger Mitt Romney strove for further political gains in their second of three campaign debates Tuesday night, a nationally televised town hall-style encounter exactly three weeks before Election Day.

Both men rehearsed extensively for the 90-minute encounter, a turnabout for Obama, whose low-energy performance in the first debate nearly two weeks ago sent a shudder through the ranks of his partisans and helped spark a rise in the polls for his rival.

"I had a bad night," the president conceded, days after he and Romney shared a stage for the first time, in Denver. His aides made it known he didn't intend to be as deferential to his challenger this time, and the presidential party decamped for a resort in Williamsburg, Va., for rehearsals that consumed the better part of three days.

Romney rehearsed in Massachusetts and again after arriving on Long Island on debate day, with less to make up for.

"The first debate was huge and we've seen our numbers move all across the country," his wife, Ann, said before joining her husband in New York.

In a campaign filled with controversy, even the evening's ground rules sparked one.

Candy Crowley of CNN, the moderator, said she expected to be following up at times on questions from the audience. A formal memorandum drafted by the two campaigns said her role would be more limited, but she and the evening's sponsor, the Commission on Presidential Debates said they weren't party to it.

The questions were from about 80 undecided voters inside the hall in a deeply Democratic state. But the audience that mattered most watched on television and was counted in the tens of millions. Crucially important: viewers in the nine battlegrounds where the race is likely to be settled.

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