The US presidential debate: Our voter panel's verdict

'Romney seemed out of touch' and 'Obama came out the clear winner' - read how The Independent's panel summed up the debate

Diane Bergin, 44, housewife, votes in Florida.
2008 – Voted McCain
2012 – Undecided

Both candidates were aggressive, with interruptions and several zingers. There wasn’t much debate on foreign policy, which is important to me, and seeing the moderator challenging Romney on the Libya issue didn't sway my thoughts on how it was poorly handled by the Obama administration. But I thought both candidates did great, so I'm still undecided.

Cherlene Nerland, 37, housewife, votes in Mississippi
2008 – Did not vote
2012 – Undecided

I was a little shocked by the lack of respect Romney showed Obama.  While watching the debate, I was reminded of something my father-in-law always says: "I may not respect the man in the office, but I will always respect the office of the President of the United States of America".  I realise Romney is trying to get elected, but you just do not treat the President the way he did.  It was completely disrespectful and I believe really showed a lot about his true character.

Chelsea Samuel, 29,  personal shopper, votes in North Carolina.
2008 – Voted Obama
2012 – Plans to vote Obama

As a woman, I feel like Romney seemed out of touch with the realities many of us face every day, from making sure we receive the pay we earn and being able to afford healthcare and contraception. I also thought Obama was more assertive and less of a details-obsessed wonk tonight than last time. He behaved like a commander-in-chief, and leader of the free world.

DC Stultz, 72, retired, votes in Florida.
2008 – Voted Obama
2012 – Plans to vote Obama

Obama came out the clear winner. Romney rarely answered the questions put to him, continued with his smoke and mirrors to pitch his tax plan, and then had the moderator fact checking him to boot. Obama's answers made sense; Romney's didn't.


Julie Saxenmeyer, 37, development specialist for a public library system, votes in Maryland.
2008 – Voted Obama
2012 – Plans to vote Obama

I am both relieved and energised by the President's performance. He came out firing on all cylinders and called out Romney on his blatant distortions of truth. I liked that he brought up that callous 47% comment, and thought he was much more aggressive this go-round. Tonight I think Obama completely changed the conversation that's been overriding the campaign over the past 13 days.

Michael Rasmussen, 55, cybercrime prevention specialist, votes in Oregon
2008 – Voted Obama
2012 – Plans to vote Obama


It was a given that Obama needed to do better tonight.  He did. Did he do well enough?  I believe so. Romney reiterated the familiar points he made during the campaign and the first debate.  Obama attacked, from the first rebuttal onward. He called out Romney on lies. He stayed on topic during his responses and still spoke directly to his opponent's weaknesses.

Anna Schwiessinger, 31,  client services coordinator, votes in California.
2008 – Voted Obama
2012 – Plans to vote Obama

The President showed up tonight. He had some nice lines, such as "We haven't heard from the governor any specifics beyond Big Bird and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood,” and "I don't look at my pension, it's not as big as yours so it doesn't take as long." But the bitch slap of the night came from moderator Candy Crowley, for calling Romney for lying about the President's response to Libya.

Sandra Gross, 45, copy editor, votes in Michigan.
2008 – Voted Obama
2012 – Plans to vote Obama

Obama appears to have gotten his groove back.  He took charge, giving clear, concise answers to questions about the economy, immigration, and the environment.  Romney’s answers were frequently disjointed, and on the topic of employer-covered contraception, went completely against the GOP platform.  Romney tried to attribute the US auto industry recovery to his own economic recommendations, but, as a Detroiter, I will never forget his 2008 quote: “Let Detroit go bankrupt!”

José Hernández-Lagunes, 36,  university employee, votes in Illinois.
2008 – Did not vote
2012 – Plans to vote Obama

Romney has taken the low road again, with blatant disregard of facts. But the man does have a very attractive charisma and tonight I can see why many distracted/partisan voters can be attracted to him. Obama looked and sounded focused, and kept the b******t to an acceptable level. But I still think something's off with him. He doesn't sound like the great orator of yore. There's an edge to him; some nervousness that wasn't there four years ago.

Brian Slack, 28, business consultant, votes in PA.
2008 – Voted Obama
2012 – Plans to vote Obama

Mitt Romney wasn't prepared for a President who actually fought back.  Whether it was a steel rod in his spine from the Biden debate or a wide media wake up call, Obama acted like a man who had some of the fervour back from 2008. I think the moment Romney lost this debate was when he was asked about pay equality for women - never mind when the moderator had to correct him for mis-stating the contents of the President's Rose Garden speech on Libya.


Julie Nauslar, 42, advertising executive, votes in Texas.
2008 – Voted McCain
2012 – Plans to vote Romney

Obama was definitely more engaged and animated, and I think he feels more comfortable in this setting. However, he seemed to make statements that don't necessarily reflect his actions or policies. Romney continued to show energy and enthusiasm, keeping to his main bullet points and bringing everything back to what he believes will change this country's path. So I call it a draw: both bases will be happy with their candidate’s performance.
 
Jake Duhaime, 28,  publicity and special projects manager, votes in Massachusetts
2008 – Did not vote
2012 – Plans to vote Romney

For all of the hot air that President Obama and Governor Romney have given to small businesses during the campaign, you'd think that one of them would put their money where their mouth is and send a blank check to the small business I work with.

Andy Sorensen, 23, university Student, votes in Minnesota
2008 – Voted McCain
2012 – Plans to vote Romney

I didn’t think Romney lived up to expectations. He had numerous gaffes and didn’t take the high road with the moderator when he could have. That said, I could see why many Americans find politics to be so cynical. There was no clear winner; no clear loser like there was in Denver. Instead, it was an hour and a half of arguing and no real ground made for the undecided voter out there. It’s a shame really.

Chris Sasso, 24, business owner and entrepreneur, votes in New York.
2008 – Voted McCain.
2012 – Plans to vote Romney

The President had nowhere to go but up from last debate. On those grounds he would appear to be the winner. However, neither candidate helped or hurt themselves much with tonight's performance. I wish they would answer the specific questions posed to them by everyday citizens, but instead we mostly saw political posturing.

Katie McKernan, 40, stay-at-home mum, votes in Virginia.
2008 – Voted McCain
2012 – Plans to vote Romney

Obama certainly had a better night than the last debate. But it was not good enough. Romney hammered the President's record on jobs, growth and the economy, to which Obama had no credible response. Obama also waited until his last speaking opportunity, when Romney had no chance to respond, to employ the "47%" topic. It displays the weakness of that particular talking point. If it were truly a winning issue, Obama should be happy to debate it upfront. Rather, he snuck it in at the end when Romney had no chance to refute it.

Brian Clutter, 30, IT support specialist, votes in Ohio.
2008 – Voted McCain
2012 – Plans to vote Romney

President Obama certainly showed up for the debate this time, and hit back hard.  Overall, I'd call this bout a draw but Obama will likely be considered the winner due to his vast improvement from the last debate.  And it was smart of the President to save the 47% line for the closing comment so Governor Romney couldn't react.

Sam Miller, 33, attorney, votes in Massachusetts
2008 – Voted McCain
2012 – Plans to vote Romney

A particularly testy night. Obama wanted to make a point that he was not going to sleepwalk through another debate, so he continuously got out of his chair, attempted to interrupt Romney, and otherwise tried to show that he was more engaged and interested. I thought that made Mitt remain presidential while Obama took a page out of Biden's playbook in terms of interrupting and arguing.
      
Olivia Fahey, 19, student, Wisconsin.
2008 - Did not vote
2012 – Plans to vote Obama

Obama was back in prime form at tonight's debate. His performance was way better then the last debate and both candidates seemed engaged and the debate was much livelier. Neither man held back and the entire thing was quite partisan. However, once again both candidates struggled with the format and the rules of the debate, which is just getting tiring at this point. I would say Obama won this one.

Molly McCallum, 41, PhD Student and Consultant
2008 – Voted Obama
2012 – Plans to vote Obama

These last two debates make it clear Republicans have a women problem, not just in policy but also in underlying attitude. Women should wonder if Republicans, even self-professed moderates as Romney, consider them equals in society, intellectually capable of making their own decisions, and worthy of their accomplishments.

Toby Hatchett, 61, freelance journalist, votes in New Hampshire.        
2008 – Voted Obama
2012 – Plans to vote Obama

The format was lamentable. The moderator was almost not a presence. It was as if both men were talking into the air about whatever they  wanted to say. Of course, being an Obama supporter, I think he fared the best. But it was a sad excuse for a debate because it was not a debate. Romney's rambling with no facts to back up his rambling was frightening.

Kathy Tobiassen, 54, home-maker, votes in New York
2008 – Voted Obama
2012 – Plans to vote Obama

There were so many areas where I felt like Obama "outscored" Romney: gun control, economy, educational opportunity, health care. But I was most impressed with the clear differentiation on women's issues. Obama has a deep understanding of the issues: education, pay equality, reproductive rights. When Romney talked about women, and mentioned his search to have them on his cabinet in Massachusetts, he said he knew he should have women involved (after all, he said he had “binders” full of them) but I don't think he had an appreciation of why.

Ruben D. Sanchez, Jr, 40,  soldier in US Army National Guard/Flight Attendant, votes in Illinois.
2008 – Voted McCain
2012 – Plans to vote Romney

Obama looked like he wanted to win re-election, and he did exude a confidence that he was still in the game. But on the economy, healthcare, and Libya, he had to play defence. Romney called him on his record. For example, when the President said he had created 5 million private sector jobs, Romney retorted that those figures don't account for the over 5 million jobs that have been lost since he has been President. What summed the night up was when Obama talked about what he would do in his second term, and Romney snapped back and said, basically, "you've had 4 years, why haven't you been able to do it yet?"

Jamie Klingler, 34. Publishing Manager, votes in Pennsylvania

2008 – Voted Obama

2012 – Plans to vote Obama

Just sent in my absentee ballot for Obama, so I guess I won’t be included in any of Mitt Romney’s “binders of women.”  Was pleased with the way the moderator actually moderated and fact checked live.  Obama finally came out swinging and landed a couple of needed punches, although they both swerved gun control.  Coming from Philadelphia, gun control continues to be a daily and painful issue that needs to urgently be addressed, not just after massacres like the one in Colorado.

Jamie Klingler, 34. Publishing Manager, votes in Pennsylvania
2008 – Voted Obama
2012 – Plans to vote Obama

Just sent in my absentee ballot for Obama, so I guess I won’t be included in any of Mitt Romney’s "binders of women."  Was pleased with the way the moderator actually moderated and fact checked live. Obama finally came out swinging and landed a couple of needed punches, although they both swerved gun control.  Coming from Philadelphia, gun control continues to be a daily and painful issue that needs to urgently be addressed, not just after massacres like the one in Colorado.

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