) -- Barack Obama went on the offensive Tuesday night at the second presidential debate as Mitt Romney refused to relinquish the momentum he grabbed from his energetic performance in the candidates' first meeting.

Obama and Romney offered voters a substantive spectacle at Hofstra University at the town-hall-style debate and even exchanged heated words a few times in a rare moment of face-to-face discussion.


spoke to experts from various fields to gauge who they think won the debate.


also observed how pundits and journalists from other media outlets scored the contest. Here's what they all had to say in their own words.

Rep. Peter King, Republican Congressman from New York:

"If the two of them were starting off fresh, then it could be fifty-fifty; I don't know which way the American people would go, but when you add in the fact that the president's policies have not worked, that gives the advantage to Mitt Romney. ... I think President Obama got inspired by Joe Biden, was going to try to dominate the stage, and I thought governor Romney did an effective job of being aggressive but respectful. ... I'm not going to second guess

Romney, I mean he did basically everything I think he should have done. I'm sure somewhere tomorrow morning he's going to wake up and say, 'My God, why didn't I say this, or why didn't I say that,' as debates go I think he did exceptionally well. ...

Romney's best moment was when he drove home the fact that the morning after the worst attack on an American embassy in 33 years, Barack Obama went to Las Vegas to hustle money. ...

Obama's worst moment was when he refused to answer the question about security at the embassy and the consulate, and would not answer why he went to raise money. He did much better than he did two weeks ago; he's a smart guy, a very smart guy, very determined, very passionate. So I thought overall he did much better than he had done two weeks ago. Nothing in particular struck me, other than the fact that he was more aggressive and he was more willing to fight back."

Ned Helmes, former New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman:

"I think there were some similarities to the last debate. I think the similarities were that Mitt Romney showed up to both and was willing to play very fast and loose with the facts. And I think that the difference is going to be that since this was a much more even exchange with the president, he was not as reticent to engage as much as he was last time. The reality is that because stylistically Romney was viewed as better in the first debate, what he said and the extraordinary number of misstatements that he made were straight up lost, because everyone was dazzled by the style. In this debate, however both of them were clearly very engaged ... and what I thought was time after time after time, and very effectively, the president was able to call out not simply the debate between Obama and Romney, but the debate that Romney has with himself -- saying tonight that he does not favor employers make judgments about what is contraception when only a month or so ago he endorsed the Blunt Amendment that did exactly that is simply being on both sides of the issue. ... I think this was clearly a win for the president. ... He

Romney certainly came to talk about jobs and he certainly repeated it a number of times, so I suppose if I was in the Romney camp -- which gives me goose bumps just saying it out loud -- I would say, 'Well, they wanted to talk about jobs and he did.'"

Robert Tipp, chief investment strategist at Prudential Fixed Income:

"Clearly we have a few data points: We have the first debate where Romney did better and stocks responded favorably to that, and now we've had Obama come back stronger and we've seen stock futures drop off. They were up coming into the debate at 9 p.m. EDT, and they gave up those gains. So, not a gigantic move, but they did drop off a bit. I think it may not be so much so a statement on policy -- although it may be -- but it could be a statement about gridlock, you know, that even if the Romney policies were one of dropping tax rates and it ended up expanding the budget deficit ... having the Republican Congress and Republican president would decrease a lot of the circus factor that we have to deal with right now. ... That kind of focus on the rhetoric and with the gridlock situation we've had, it's probably something that investors have found a difficult environment to deal with; because at the end of the day policy-makers come up with something fairly moderate but modest, unexciting, and in most cases tax cuts ... but you're not looking at bold solutions, you're dealing with a lot of rhetoric coming up with every critical decision. .... I think it was important to change the momentum, the performance was so flat from Obama in the first debate that I think it was important for him to come in, if he was going to change the momentum, to come in and have a better showing. Presumably he has done that.

Sam Marcosson, law professor at University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law:

"I thought Romney was ... not as effective, sort of a tick lower, a notch lower than he did in the first debate. I thought his comfort level wasn't as high, be it that the format or maybe with the president's higher level of aggression ... and it tended to produce some answers that were not effective for him. ...The difference in

Romney's level of performance was not nearly as stark as the president's performance, which was night and day. I think the risk that I perceived coming in for the president is that he would mistake the lesson of

Joe Biden and try to imitate Biden, and I think that would have been a mistake -- he had to be himself and yet find a way to be more aggressive, more strong an authoritative without trying to pretend he was Joe Biden. .... For Gov. Romney I think that the energy moment was

good, when he was able to hammer home that

point. While I think he was overly competitive, I think as a debater you always want to come back when you have the opportunity to return to your best themes to emphasize your message -- he did that. ... Tax cuts are pretty popular, but

Romney so vulnerable, I think, and that vulnerability showed up tonight in the fact that he just won't give specifics on how he's going to pay for it. ... The highlight

for Obama is that he was able to talk ... about positive accomplishments in the first term ... but tonight he was willing to do that. ... I think

Obama on substance as well as style a little bit he was

weak on energy policy. I think he was good at talking about holistic policy -- wanting to combine a lot of different things -- but he never was able to really engage the question. Like the question about gas prices, and he tried to slide around that question ... he didn't really talk about the Secretary of Energy."

The Wall Street Journal

review and outlook


"Mr. Romney could have done better making the case for his agenda, in particular explaining


his policies will work better than Mr. Obama's. Mr. Romney is rarely good on the why. He was most persuasive on oil prices and tax-rate cuts for small business, least effective in missing a chance to mention Mr. Obama's many failed energy investments while claiming to love solar and wind power as much as the President does."

The New York Times



"Instead of windy and lethargic answers, the president was crisp in reciting his accomplishments and persuasive in explaining how he has restarted economic growth. Instead of letting Mr. Romney get away with a parade of falsehoods and unworkable promises, he regularly and forcefully called his opponent wrong. Having left many supporters wondering after the first debate whether he really wanted another four years, he finally seemed like a man who was ready to fight for another term."

The Washington Post



"President Obama and Mitt Romney faced off Tuesday night in a scrappy, at times downright nasty town-hall debate that featured a feistier, more focused Obama than was seen in their first encounter and that broadened the discussion to social issues such as immigration, contraceptive coverage and gun control. If the candidates' remarks did not break new, substantive ground, the evening served to sharpen differences between them and to give each a chance to make a sales pitch to crucial constituencies, particularly to women voters."

The Huffington Post's

Ryan Grim and Sabrina Siddiqui


"It was a very different Obama from the one who barely showed up for the first debate. 'Very little of what Governor Romney just said is true,' Obama said early in the debate. During the first debate, Obama looked down at his notes or his shoes while Romney spoke. Tonight, he turned away from the audience early to squarely face Romney while directly attacking him."

-- Written by Joe Deaux in Hempstead, N.Y.

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