Obama, who attracted criticism for his lackluster performance in the first presidential debate, cut a much livelier, more aggressive figure during the clash on the campus of Hofstra University on Long Island. Romney, however, repeatedly went toe-to-toe with the president in an entertaining encounter.
The town-hall format saw both men face questions from members of the public, spanning a wide range of topics. These encompassed job creation, taxes, the auto bailout, workplace inequality, and the recent tragic attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Silicon Valley was also highlighted by both candidates, with Obama referring to two of America's biggest tech companies to underline his immigration policy."When we think about immigration, we have to understand there are folks all around the world who still see America as the land of promise," he said. "And they provide us energy and they provide us innovation and they start companies like Intel (INTC - Get Report) and Google (GOOG - Get Report)." Romney also cited the U.S. tech sector to explain his tough stance on China. "China's been cheating over the years. One by holding down the value of their currency. No. 2, by stealing our intellectual property; our designs, our patents, our technology," he said. "There's even an Apple (AAPL - Get Report) store in China that's a counterfeit Apple store, selling counterfeit goods." The former Massachusetts governor also touched on growing concerns about the cybersecurity risks posed by China, warning that "they hack into our computers." It was the highly charged, face-to-face sparring between Obama and Romney though that garnered most of the post-debate headlines. Ignoring the debate format which prohibited direct interactions, the candidates repeatedly addressed each other to trade barbs, most notably over energy and the White House's response to the Benghazi attack. The verbal tussle, which went past its allotted 90 minutes, followed a similarly full-blooded vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan last week. Some 62% of readers polled by TheStreet said that Ryan, the Wisconsin representative, came out on top in the vice-presidential debate. Obama and Romney meet again for the final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., on Oct.22.