The candidates debated Tuesday night as if their political lives depended on it — because they do. It was a re-energized Obama who showed up at Hofstra University, lifting the spirits of Democrats who felt let down by the president's limp performance in the candidates' first encounter two weeks ago.
But Romney knew what was coming and didn't give an inch, pressing his case even when the arguments deteriorated into did-not, did-too rejoinders that couldn't have done much to clarify the choice for undecided voters.
The debate was the third installment in what amounts to a four-week-long reality TV series for Campaign 2012. Romney was the clear victor in the series debut, Biden aggressively counterpunched in the next-up vice presidential debate, and the latest faceoff featured two competitors determined to give no quarter.
It was a pushy, interruption-filled encounter filled with charges and countercharges that the other guy wasn't telling the truth. The two candidates were both verbally and physically at odds in the town hall-style format, at one point circling each other on center stage like boxers in a prize fight.
"I thought it was a real moment," Biden told NBC's "Today" show in a taped interview aired Wednesday. "When they were kind of circling each other, it was like, 'Hey, come on man, let's level with each other here.'"
One of the debate's tensest moments came when Romney suggested Obama's administration may have misled the public over what caused the attack at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last month that killed four Americans. The issue is sure to continue to be debated next week at the third and closing debate, focused on foreign policy and scheduled for Monday at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.