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Has Obama reenergized Democrats with debate performance? (+video)

Obama’s forceful performance Tuesday night is likely to quiet Democrats’ doubts and help energize them for the tough final weeks of the campaign. Snap surveys judged Obama the winner, but the big question is whether his slide in the polls will stop now.

By Staff Writer / October 17, 2012

President Obama answers a questiion as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney listens during the second presidential debate in Hempstead, N.Y., Tuesday night.

Mike Segar/Reuters

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Did President Obama energize Democrats with his performance at Tuesday night’s debate on Long Island in New York? After all, there’s been lots of bemoaning among his party faithful in recent days. Many of them judged Mr. Obama’s first debate performance in Denver a disaster. Some went so far as to wonder whether the president’s apparent lethargy in the Rocky Mountain smackdown two weeks ago meant he didn’t really want to be president anymore.

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Washington Editor

Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.

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President Obama and Mitt Romney hit each other early and often in their second debate. Nancy Cordes reports on how voters viewed the candidates' performances and looks back on some highlights of the debate.

Well, they can come in off the ledge. Obama’s performance at Hofstra University should quiet Democrats’ doubts and help energize them for the tough final weeks of the campaign. Whether the president’s forceful, almost physical confrontations with GOP nominee Mitt Romney stop his slide in the polls remains to be seen. But snap surveys judged Obama the night’s winner (though not by the margin Mr. Romney enjoyed after the first debate). And partisans were thrilled by Obama’s attacks on his rival’s policies and defense of his own administration.

“To my mind, Obama dominated Romney tonight in every single way: in substance, manner, style, and personal appeal  ... he behaved like a president,” wrote influential Daily Beast blogger Andrew Sullivan.

OK – to be fair, Mr. Sullivan doesn’t label himself a Democrat. He further likened Obama’s Tuesday performance to that of “a lethal, restrained predator,” which is way over the top. But he’s been a strong Obama supporter since the 2008 primaries – and after the first debate he’d wondered aloud whether the president had lost the election at a stroke.

Polls taken immediately after Tuesday's debate showed that a plurality of voters considered Obama the winner, though not by much. In a CBS News/Knowledge networks survey of self-described undecided voters, 37 percent of respondents said Obama came out on top, while 30 percent picked Romney, and 33 percent called it a tie. A CNN poll of registered voters went for Obama by a margin of 46 percent to 37 percent.

Again, there’s no indication yet that this will bend the course of the campaign, as Romney’s overwhelming victory in the first debate appears to have done. But it may rally Obama’s dispirited party and refocus the race on fundamental issues in its final days.

“Barack Obama did well enough in the second debate that he can rest assured about one thing: if he loses his bid for a second term it won’t be because he is bad at debates,” wrote Politico’s John F. Harris and Jonathan Martin at the top of their debate wrap-up story.

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