Romney’s son wanted to take swing at the president

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Mitt Romney’s eldest son said on North Carolina radio that he wanted to punch President Barack Obama during the second debate, which took place on Oct. 16.

North Carolina radio host Bill LuMaye asked Tagg Romney what it felt like “to hear the president of the United States call your dad a liar.”

The son, who is 42, said at one point during the debate he wanted to jump out of his seat “to rush down the debate stage and take a swing at him.”

He was referring to the president.

He continued, “But you know you can't do that because, well, first because there's a lot of Secret Service between you and him. But also because this is the nature of the process, they're going to do everything they can do to try to make my dad into someone he's not. We signed up for it. We've gotta kind of sit there and take our punches and then send them right back the other way.”

While the Obama team voiced certainty the president had won in the town hall-style debate at Hofstra University, east of New York City, Romney ceded little ground, repeatedly reminding voters of the economic pain many had endured across the president's first four years. While unemployment has declined along with voter uncertainty that the country is on the right path, polls show that the struggling economy remains the uppermost issue with just three weeks remaining before the Nov. 6 election. Early voting is under way in many states with more than 1.3 million Americans already having cast ballots.

Obama, seeking to deflect Romney's arguments about Republican plans to fix the economy, blasted his opponent's formula as harmful to the middle class. He also accused Romney of flip-flopping on issues like energy and gun control.

In perhaps the most heated give-and-take, the president appeared angry when Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, criticized the administration response to the deadly attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi last month.

Romney described the deadly Libya attack as part of an unraveling of the administration's foreign policy. He said it took Obama a long time to admit the episode had been a terrorist attack, but Obama said he had said so the day afterward in an appearance at the White House. When moderator Candy Crowley of CNN said the president had in fact done so, Obama, prompted, "Say that a little louder, Candy."

According to the transcript, Obama said on Sept. 12, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for."

He pointedly told Romney that any suggestion that his administration "would play politics or mislead when we've lost four of our own, governor, is offensive. That's not what we do."

The open-stage format Tuesday night, with no physical objects between them, placed incumbent and challenger face to face and, when they chose, directly in each other's faces. Their physical encounters crackled with energy and tension, and the crowd watched raptly as the two sparred while struggling to appear calm and affable before a national television audience of tens of millions.

While the president's forcefulness was bound to lift the spirits of Democrats disheartened by his previous performance, Romney also gave his supporters reasons to cheer. He appeared confident and comfortable, as he had been in the first debate , and aggressively returned Obama's fire. Romney said the middle class "has been crushed over the last four years," and that 23 million Americans are struggling to find work.

As the 90-minute confrontation moved on, Romney repeated a pledge to declare China a currency manipulator on his first day in office. "We can compete with anyone in the world as long as the playing field is level,'' he said. "China's been cheating over the years" by holding down the value of its currency and stealing intellectual property.

Obama told Romney that "you're the last person who's going to get tough on China." He has charged that Romney made money from companies that outsourced jobs to China while running the private equity firm Bain Capital.

The two men interrupted one another often, speaking over each other to the point that neither could be understood.

"You'll get your chance in a moment. I'm still speaking," Romney said as he tried to cut off Obama at one point.

Obama is fighting to hang on to small leads in many of the nine key swing states that likely will decide the election. The so-called battleground states – those that do not reliably vote either Republican or Democratic _ take on outsized importance in the U.S. system, in which presidents are chosen not by the nationwide popular vote but in state-by-state contests.

From the opening moments, Obama was aggressive. He criticized Romney's opposition to the Democrats' bailout of the auto industry and rejected Romney's economic proposals as squeezing the middle class.

"Gov. Romney says he's got a five-point plan. Gov. Romney doesn't have a five-point plan. He has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules," Obama said.

Tuesday's debate was before an audience of 82 uncommitted voters Organization who posed questions to the candidates. They were selected by the Gallup Organization. Crowley chose speakers after reviewing their proposed questions to avoid repeats.

Obama needed to strike the right balance in coming on strong against Romney without turning off the audience and millions of television viewers by going too negative. Obama has said his first debate performance was "too polite."

While most of Tuesday's debate was focused on policy differences, there was one more-personal moment, when Obama raised the issue of Romney's investments in China.

"Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?" Romney interrupted.

"You know, I don't look at my pension. It's not as big as yours," the president shot back at his wealthier rival.

The final debate is next Monday. It will focus on foreign policy. The topics include:

  • America's role in the world
  • Our longest war - Afghanistan and Pakistan
  • Red Lines - Israel and Iran
  • The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism - I
  • The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism - II
  • The Rise of China and Tomorrow's World