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Part two: Transcript of Obama and Romney at second presidential debate

Oct. 17, 2012 at 12:18 AM   |   Comments

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ROMNEY: No, let -- let -- let me go back and speak to the points that the president made and -- and -- and let's get them correct.

I did not say that the Arizona law was a model for the nation in that aspect. I said that the E-Verify portion of the Arizona law, which is -- which is the portion of the law which says that employers could be able to determine whether someone is here illegally or not illegally, that that was a model for the nation. That's number one.

Number two, I asked the president a question I think Hispanics and immigrants all over the nation have asked. He was asked this on Univision the other day. Why, when you said you'd filed legislation in your first year didn't you do it? And he didn't answer. He -- he doesn't answer that question. He said the standard bearer wasn't for it.

I'm glad you thought I was a standard bearer four years ago, but I wasn't.

Four years ago you said in your first year you would file legislation.

In his first year, I was just getting -- licking my wounds from having been beaten by John McCain, all right. I was not the standard bearer.

My -- my view is that this president should have honored his promise to do as he said.

Now, let me mention one other thing, and that is self-deportation says let people make their own choice. What I was saying is, we're not going to round up 12 million people, undocumented illegals, and take them out of the nation. Instead let people make their own choice. And if they -- if they find that -- that they can't get the benefits here that they want and they can't -- and they can't find the job they want, then they'll make a decision to go a place where -- where they have better opportunities.

But I'm not in favor of rounding up people and -- and -- and taking them out of this country. I am in favor, as the president has said, and I agree with him, which is that if people have committed crimes we got to get them out of this country.

ROMNEY: Let me mention something else the president said. It was a moment ago and I didn't get a chance to, when he was describing Chinese investments and so forth.

OBAMA: Candy?

Hold on a second. The...

ROMNEY: Mr. President, I'm still speaking.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: Mr. President, let me finish.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: I've gotta continue.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Governor Romney, you can make it short. See all these people? They've been waiting for you. (inaudible) make it short (inaudible).

ROMNEY: Just going to make a point. Any investments I have over the last eight years have been managed by a blind trust. And I understand they do include investments outside the United States, including in -- in Chinese companies.

Mr. President, have you looked at your pension? Have you looked at your pension?

OBAMA: I've got to say...

ROMNEY: Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?

OBAMA: You know, I -- I don't look at my pension. It's not as big as yours so it doesn't take as long.

ROMNEY: Well, let me give you some advice.

OBAMA: I don't check it that often.

ROMNEY: Let me give you some advice. Look at your pension. You also have investments in Chinese companies. You also have investments outside the United States. You also have investments through a Cayman's trust.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: We're way off topic here, Governor Romney.

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: I thought we were talking about immigration.

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: I do want to make sure that...

CROWLEY: If I could have you sit down, Governor Romney. Thank you.

OBAMA: I do want to make sure that -- I do want to make sure that we just understand something. Governor Romney says he wasn't referring to Arizona as a model for the nation. His top adviser on immigration is the guy who designed the Arizona law, the entirety of it; not E-Verify, the whole thing. That's his policy. And it's a bad policy. And it won't help us grow.

Look, 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. And they provide us energy and they provide us innovation and they start companies like Intel and Google. And we want to encourage that.

Now, we've got to make sure that we do it in a smart way and a comprehensive way, and we make the legal system better. But when we make this into a divisive political issue, and when we don't have bipartisan support -- I can deliver, Governor, a whole bunch of Democrats to get comprehensive immigration reform done, and we can't...

ROMNEY: I'll get it done. I'll get it done. First year...

OBAMA: ... we can't -- we have not seen Republicans serious about this issue at all. And it's time for them to get serious on it.

CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me move you on here please. Mr. President, (inaudible).

OBAMA: This used to be a bipartisan issue.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Don't go away, though -- right. Don't go away because I -- I want you to talk to Kerry Ladka who wants to switch the topic for us.

OBAMA: OK.

Hi, Kerry.

QUESTION: Good evening, Mr. President.

OBAMA: I'm sorry. What's your name?

QUESTION: It's Kerry, Kerry Ladka.

OBAMA: Great to see you.

QUESTION: This question actually comes from a brain trust of my friends at Global Telecom Supply (ph) in Minneola yesterday.

OBAMA: Ah.

QUESTION: We were sitting around, talking about Libya, and we were reading and became aware of reports that the State Department refused extra security for our embassy in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the attacks that killed four Americans.

Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?

OBAMA: Well, let me first of all talk about our diplomats, because they serve all around the world and do an incredible job in a very dangerous situation. And these aren't just representatives of the United States, they are my representatives. I send them there, oftentimes into harm's way. I know these folks and I know their families. So nobody is more concerned about their safety and security than I am.

So as soon as we found out that the Benghazi consulate was being overrun, I was on the phone with my national security team and I gave them three instructions.

Number one, beef up our security and procedures, not just in Libya, but at every embassy and consulate in the region.

Number two, investigate exactly what happened, regardless of where the facts lead us, to make sure folks are held accountable and it doesn't happen again.

And number three, we are going to find out who did this and we're going to hunt them down, because one of the things that I've said throughout my presidency is when folks mess with Americans, we go after them.

OBAMA: Now Governor Romney had a very different response. While we were still dealing with our diplomats being threatened, Governor Romney put out a press release, trying to make political points, and that's not how a commander in chief operates. You don't turn national security into a political issue. Certainly not right when it's happening. And people -- not everybody agrees with some of the decisions I've made. But when it comes to our national security, I mean what I say. I said I'd end the war in Libya -- in -- in Iraq, and I did.

I said that we'd go after al-Qaeda and bin Laden, we have. I said we'd transition out of Afghanistan, and start making sure that Afghans are responsible for their own security, that's what I'm doing. And when it comes to this issue, when I say that we are going to find out exactly what happened, everybody will be held accountable. And I am ultimately responsible for what's taking place there because these are my folks, and I'm the one who has to greet those coffins when they come home. You know that I mean what I say.

CROWLEY: Mr. President, I'm going to move us along. Governor?

ROMNEY: Thank you Kerry for your question, it's an important one. And -- and I -- I think the president just said correctly that the buck does stop at his desk and -- and he takes responsibility for -- for that -- for the failure in providing those security resources, and -- and those terrible things may well happen from time to time. I -- I'm -- I feel very deeply sympathetic for the families of those who lost loved ones. And today there's a memorial service for one of those that was lost in this tragedy. We -- we think of their families and care for them deeply. There were other issues associated with this -- with this tragedy. There were many days that passed before we knew whether this was a spontaneous demonstration, or actually whether it was a terrorist attack.

ROMNEY: And there was no demonstration involved. It was a terrorist attack and it took a long time for that to be told to the American people. Whether there was some misleading, or instead whether we just didn't know what happened, you have to ask yourself why didn't we know five days later when the ambassador to the United Nations went on TV to say that this was a demonstration. How could we have not known?

But I find more troubling than this, that on -- on the day following the assassination of the United States ambassador, the first time that's happened since 1979, when -- when we have four Americans killed there, when apparently we didn't know what happened, that the president, the day after that happened, flies to Las Vegas for a political fund-raiser, then the next day to Colorado for another event, other political event.

I think these -- these actions taken by a president and a leader have symbolic significance and perhaps even material significance in that you'd hope that during that time we could call in the people who were actually eyewitnesses. We've read their accounts now about what happened. It was very clear this was not a demonstration. This was an attack by terrorists.

And this calls into question the president's whole policy in the Middle East. Look what's happening in Syria, in Egypt, now in Libya. Consider the distance between ourselves and -- and Israel, the president said that -- that he was going to put daylight between us and Israel.

We have Iran four years closer to a nuclear bomb. Syria -- Syria's not just a tragedy of 30,000 civilians being killed by a military, but also a strategic -- strategically significant player for America.

The president's policies throughout the Middle East began with an apology tour and -- and -- and pursue a strategy of leading from behind, and this strategy is unraveling before our very eyes.

CROWLEY: Because we're -- we're closing in, I want to still get a lot of people in. I want to ask you something, Mr. President, and then have the governor just quickly.

Your secretary of state, as I'm sure you know, has said that she takes full responsibility for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Does the buck stop with your secretary of state as far as what went on here?

OBAMA: Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job. But she works for me. I'm the president and I'm always responsible, and that's why nobody's more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I do.

The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people in the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror and I also said that we're going to hunt down those who committed this crime.

And then a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with the families.

And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the Secretary of State, our U.N. Ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we've lost four of our own, governor, is offensive. That's not what we do. That's not what I do as president, that's not what I do as Commander in Chief.

CROWLEY: Governor, if you want to...

ROMNEY: Yes, I -- I...

CROWLEY: ... quickly to this please.

ROMNEY: I -- I think interesting the president just said something which -- which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.

OBAMA: That's what I said.

ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror.

It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you're saying?

OBAMA: Please proceed governor.

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

CROWLEY: It -- it -- it -- he did in fact, sir. So let me -- let me call it an act of terror...

OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

CROWLEY: He -- he did call it an act of terror. It did as well take -- it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.

ROMNEY: This -- the administration -- the administration indicated this was a reaction to a video and was a spontaneous reaction.

CROWLEY: It did.

ROMNEY: It took them a long time to say this was a terrorist act by a terrorist group. And to suggest -- am I incorrect in that regard, on Sunday, the -- your secretary --

OBAMA: Candy?

ROMNEY: Excuse me. The ambassador of the United Nations went on the Sunday television shows and spoke about how --

OBAMA: Candy, I'm --

ROMNEY: -- this was a spontaneous --

CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me --

OBAMA: I'm happy to have a longer conversation --

CROWLEY: I know you --

OBAMA: -- about foreign policy.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. But I want to -- I want to move you on and also --

OBAMA: OK. I'm happy to do that, too.

CROWLEY: -- the transcripts and --

OBAMA: I just want to make sure that --

CROWLEY: -- figure out what we --

OBAMA: -- all of these wonderful folks are going to have a chance to get some of their questions answered.

CROWLEY: Because what I -- what I want to do, Mr. President, stand there a second, because I want to introduce you to Nina Gonzalez, who brought up a question that we hear a lot, both over the Internet and from this crowd.

QUESTION: President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or planned to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?

OBAMA: We're a nation that believes in the Second Amendment, and I believe in the Second Amendment. We've got a long tradition of hunting and sportsmen and people who want to make sure they can protect themselves.

But there have been too many instances during the course of my presidency, where I've had to comfort families who have lost somebody. Most recently out in Aurora. You know, just a couple of weeks ago, actually, probably about a month, I saw a mother, who I had met at the bedside of her son, who had been shot in that theater.

And her son had been shot through the head. And we spent some time, and we said a prayer and, remarkably, about two months later, this young man and his mom showed up, and he looked unbelievable, good as new.

But there were a lot of families who didn't have that good fortune and whose sons or daughters or husbands didn't survive.

So my belief is that, (A), we have to enforce the laws we've already got, make sure that we're keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill. We've done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we've got more to do when it comes to enforcement.

But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don't belong on our streets. And so what I'm trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced. But part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence. Because frankly, in my home town of Chicago, there's an awful lot of violence and they're not using AK-47s. They're using cheap hand guns.

And so what can we do to intervene, to make sure that young people have opportunity; that our schools are working; that if there's violence on the streets, that working with faith groups and law enforcement, we can catch it before it gets out of control.

And so what I want is a -- is a comprehensive strategy. Part of it is seeing if we can get automatic weapons that kill folks in amazing numbers out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. But part of it is also going deeper and seeing if we can get into these communities and making sure we catch violent impulses before they occur.

CROWLEY: Governor Romney, the question is about assault weapons, AK-47s.

ROMNEY: Yeah, I'm not in favor of new pieces of legislation on -- on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal. We, of course, don't want to have automatic weapons, and that's already illegal in this country to have automatic weapons. What I believe is we have to do, as the president mentioned towards the end of his remarks there, which is to make enormous efforts to enforce the gun laws that we have, and to change the culture of violence that we have.

And you ask how -- how are we going to do that? And there are a number of things. He mentioned good schools. I totally agree. We were able to drive our schools to be number one in the nation in my state. And I believe if we do a better job in education, we'll -- we'll give people the -- the hope and opportunity they deserve and perhaps less violence from that. But let me mention another thing. And that is parents. We need moms and dads, helping to raise kids. Wherever possible the -- the benefit of having two parents in the home, and that's not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone, that's a great idea.

Because if there's a two parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically. The opportunities that the child will -- will be able to achieve increase dramatically. So we can make changes in the way our culture works to help bring people away from violence and give them opportunity, and bring them in the American system. The -- the greatest failure we've had with regards to -- to gun violence in some respects is what -- what is known as Fast and Furious. Which was a program under this administration, and how it worked exactly I think we don't know precisely, where thousands of automatic, and AK-47 type weapons were -- were given to people that ultimately gave them to -- to drug lords.

They used those weapons against -- against their own citizens and killed Americans with them. And this was a -- this was a program of the government. For what purpose it was put in place, I can't imagine. But it's one of the great tragedies related to violence in our society which has occurred during this administration. Which I think the American people would like to understand fully, it's been investigated to a degree, but -- but the administration has carried out executive privilege to prevent all of the information from coming out.

I'd like to understand who it was that did this, what the idea was behind it, why it led to the violence, thousands of guns going to Mexican drug lords. OBAMA: Candy?

CROWLEY: Governor, Governor, if I could, the question was about these assault weapons that once were once banned and are no longer banned.

I know that you signed an assault weapons ban when you were in Massachusetts, obviously, with this question, you no longer do support that. Why is that, given the kind of violence that we see sometimes with these mass killings? Why is it that you have changed your mind?

ROMNEY: Well, Candy, actually, in my state, the pro-gun folks and the anti-gun folks came together and put together a piece of legislation. And it's referred to as an assault weapon ban, but it had, at the signing of the bill, both the pro-gun and the anti-gun people came together, because it provided opportunities for both that both wanted.

There were hunting opportunities, for instance, that haven't previously been available and so forth, so it was a mutually agreed- upon piece of legislation. That's what we need more of, Candy. What we have right now in Washington is a place that's gridlocked.

CROWLEY: So I could -- if you could get people to agree to it, you would be for it?

ROMNEY: We have --

OBAMA: Candy?

ROMNEY: -- we haven't had the leadership in Washington to work on a bipartisan basis. I was able to do that in my state and bring these two together.

CROWLEY: Quickly, Mr. President.

OBAMA: The -- first of all, I think Governor Romney was for an assault weapons ban before he was against it. And he said that the reason he changed his mind was, in part, because he was seeking the endorsement of the National Rifle Association. So that's on the record.

But I think that one area we agree on is the important of parents and the importance of schools, because I do believe that if our young people have opportunity, then they are less likely to engage in these kinds of violent acts. We're not going to eliminate everybody who is mentally disturbed and we have got to make sure they don't get weapons.

(AUDIO GAP)

OBAMA: because I do believe that if our young people have opportunity, then they're less likely to engage in these kind of violent acts.

We're not going to eliminate everybody who is mentally disturbed, and we've got to make sure they don't get weapons. But we can make a difference in terms ensuring that every young person in America, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, have a chance to succeed.

And, Candy, we haven't had a chance to talk about education much, but I think it is very important to understand that the reforms we've put in place, working with 46 governors around the country, are seeing schools that are some of the ones that are the toughest for kids starting to succeed. We're starting to see gains in math and science.

When it comes to community colleges, we are setting up programs, including with Nassau Community College, to retrain workers, including young people who may have dropped out of school but now are getting another chance, training them for the jobs that exist right now.

And in fact, employers are looking for skilled workers. And so we're matching them up. Giving them access to higher education. As I said, we have made sure that millions of young people are able to get an education that they weren't able to get before.

Now...

CROWLEY: Mr. President, I have to -- I have to move you along here. You said you wanted to...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: We need to do it here.

OBAMA: But -- but it'll -- it'll -- it'll be...

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: ... just one second.

CROWLEY: One...

OBAMA: Because -- because this is important. This is part of the choice in this election.

When Governor Romney was asked whether teachers, hiring more teachers was important to growing our economy, Governor Romney said that doesn't grow our economy.

When -- when he was asked would class size...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: The question, Mr. President, was guns here, so I need to move us along.

OBAMA: I understand.

CROWLEY: You know, the question was guns. So let me -- let me bring in another...

OBAMA: But this will make a difference in terms of whether or not we can move this economy forward for these young people...

CROWLEY: I understand.

OBAMA: ... and reduce our violence.

CROWLEY: OK. Thank you so much.

I want to ask Carol Goldberg to stand up, because she gets to a question that both these men have been passionate about. It's for Governor Romney.

QUESTION: The outsourcing of American jobs overseas has taken a toll on our economy. What plans do you have to put back and keep jobs here in the United States?

ROMNEY: Boy, great question and important question, because you're absolutely right. The place where we've seen manufacturing go has been China. China is now the largest manufacturer in the world. It used to be the United States of America. A lot of good people have lost jobs. A half a million manufacturing jobs have been lost in the last four years. That's total over the last four years.

One of the reasons for that is that people think it's more attractive in some cases to go offshore than to stay here. We have made it less attractive for enterprises to stay here than to go offshore from time to time. What I will do as president is make sure it's more attractive to come to America again.

This is the way we're going to create jobs in this country. It's not by trickle-down government, saying we're going to take more money from people and hire more government workers, raise more taxes, put in place more regulations. Trickle-down government has never worked here, has never worked anywhere.

I want to make America the most attractive place in the world for entrepreneurs, for small business, for big business, to invest and grow in America.

Now, we're going to have to make sure that as we trade with other nations that they play by the rules. And China hasn't. One of the reasons -- or one of the ways they don't play by the rules is artificially holding down the value of their currency. Because if they put their currency down low, that means their prices on their goods are low. And that makes them advantageous in the marketplace.

We lose sales. And manufacturers here in the U.S. making the same products can't compete. China has been a currency manipulator for years and years and years. And the president has a regular opportunity to label them as a currency manipulator, but refuses to do so.

On day one, I will label China a currency manipulator, which will allow me as president to be able to put in place, if necessary, tariffs where I believe that they are taking unfair advantage of our manufacturers.

So we're going to make sure that people we trade with around the world play by the rules. But let me -- let me not just stop there. Don't forget, what's key to bringing back jobs here is not just finding someone else to punish, and I'm going to be strict with people who we trade with to make sure they -- they follow the law and play by the rules, but it's also to make America the most attractive place in the world for businesses of all kinds.

That's why I want to down the tax rates on small employers, big employers, so they want to be here. Canada's tax rate on companies is now 15 percent. Ours is 35 percent. So if you're starting a business, where would you rather start it? We have to be competitive if we're going to create more jobs here.

Regulations have quadrupled. The rate of regulations quadrupled under this president. I talk to small businesses across the country. They say, "We feel like we're under attack from our own government." I want to make sure that regulators see their job as encouraging small business, not crushing it. And there's no question but that Obamacare has been an extraordinary deterrent to enterprises of all kinds hiring people.

My priority is making sure that we get more people hired. If we have more people hired, if we get back manufacturing jobs, if we get back all kinds of jobs into this country, then you're going to see rising incomes again. The reason incomes are down is because unemployment is so high. I know what it takes to get this to happen, and my plan will do that, and one part of it is to make sure that we keep China playing by the rules.

CROWLEY: Mr. President, two minutes here, because we are then going to go to our last question.

OBAMA: OK. We need to create jobs here. And both Governor Romney and I agree actually that we should lower our corporate tax rate. It's too high. But there's a difference in terms of how we would do it. I want to close loopholes that allow companies to deduct expenses when they move to China; that allow them to profit offshore and not have to get taxed, so they have tax advantages offshore.

All those changes in our tax code would make a difference.

Now, Governor Romney actually wants to expand those tax breaks. One of his big ideas when it comes to corporate tax reform would be to say, if you invest overseas, you make profits overseas, you don't have to pay U.S. taxes.

But, of course, if you're a small business or a mom-and-pop business or a big business starting up here, you've got to pay even the reduced rate that Governor Romney's talking about.

And it's estimated that that will create 800,000 new jobs. The problem is they'll be in china. Or India. Or Germany.

That's not the way we're going to create jobs here. The way we're going to create jobs here is not just to change our tax code, but also to double our exports. And we are on pace to double our exports, one of the commitments I made when I was president. That's creating tens of thousands of jobs all across the country. That's why we've kept on pushing trade deals, but trade deals that make sure that American workers and American businesses are getting a good deal.

Now, Governor Romney talked about China, as I already indicated. In the private sector, Governor Romney's company invested in what were called pioneers of outsourcing. That's not my phrase. That's what reporters called it.

And as far as currency manipulation, the currency has actually gone up 11 percent since I've been president because we have pushed them hard. And we've put unprecedented trade pressure on China. That's why exports have significantly increased under my presidency. That's going to help to create jobs here.

CROWLEY: Mr. President, we have a really short time for a quick discussion here.

iPad, the Macs, the iPhones, they are all manufactured in China. One of the major reasons is labor is so much cheaper here. How do you convince a great American company to bring that manufacturing back here?

ROMNEY: The answer is very straightforward. We can compete with anyone in the world as long as the playing field is level. China's been cheating over the years. One by holding down the value of their currency. Number two, by stealing our intellectual property; our designs, our patents, our technology. There's even an Apple store in China that's a counterfeit Apple store, selling counterfeit goods. They hack into our computers. We will have to have people play on a fair basis, that's number one.

Number two, we have to make America the most attractive place for entrepreneurs, for people who want to expand their business. That's what brings jobs in. The president's characterization of my tax plan...

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: ...is completely...is completely...

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: ...is completely false. Let me tell you...

CROWLEY: Let me to go the president here because we really are running out of time. And the question is can we ever get -- we can't get wages like that. It can't be sustained.

OBAMA: Candy, there are some jobs that are not going to come back. Because they are low wage, low skill jobs. I want high wage, high skill jobs. That's why we have to emphasize manufacturing. That's why we have to invest in advanced manufacturing. That's why we've got to make sure that we've got the best science and research in the world. And when we talk about deficits, if we're adding to our deficit for tax cuts for folks who don't need them, and we're cutting investments in research and science that will create the next Apple, create the next new innovation that will sell products around the world, we will lose that race.

If we're not training engineers to make sure that they are equipped here in this country. Then companies won't come here. Those investments are what's going to help to make sure that we continue to lead this world economy, not just next year, but 10 years from now, 50 years from now, 100 years from now.

CROWLEY: Thanks Mr. President.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: Government does not create jobs. Government does not create jobs.

CROWLEY: Governor Romney, I want to introduce you to Barry Green, because he's going to have the last question to you first?

ROMNEY: Barry? Where is Barry?

QUESTION: Hi, Governor. I think this is a tough question. To each of you. What do you believe is the biggest misperception that the American people have about you as a man and a candidate? Using specific examples, can you take this opportunity to debunk that misperception and set us straight?

ROMNEY: Thank you, and that's an opportunity for me, and I appreciate it.

In the nature of a campaign, it seems that some campaigns are focused on attacking a person rather than prescribing their own future and the things they'd like to do. In the course of that, I think the president's campaign has tried to characterize me as -- as someone who's very different than who I am.

I care about 100 percent of the American people. I want 100 percent of the American people to have a bright and prosperous future. I care about our kids. I understand what it takes to make a bright and prosperous future for America again. I spent my life in the private sector, not in government. I'm a guy who wants to help with the experience I have, the American people.

My -- my passion probably flows from the fact that I believe in God. And I believe we're all children of the same God. I believe we have a responsibility to care for one another. I -- I served as a missionary for my church. I served as a pastor in my congregation for about 10 years. I've sat across the table from people who were out of work and worked with them to try and find new work or to help them through tough times.

I went to the Olympics when they were in trouble to try and get them on track. And as governor of my state, I was able to get 100 percent of my people insured, all my kids, about 98 percent of the adults. I was able also to get our schools ranked number one in the nation, so 100 percent of our kids would have a bright opportunity for a future.

ROMNEY: I understand that I can get this country on track again. We don't have to settle for what we're going through. We don't have to settle for gasoline at four bucks. We don't have to settle for unemployment at a chronically high level. We don't have to settle for 47 million people on food stamps. We don't have to settle for 50 percent of kids coming out of college not able to get work. We don't have to settle for 23 million people struggling to find a good job.

If I become president, I'll get America working again. I will get us on track to a balanced budget. The president hasn't. I will. I'll make sure we can reform Medicare and Social Security to preserve them for coming -- coming generations. The president said he would. He didn't.

CROWLEY: Governor...

ROMNEY: I'll get our incomes up. And by the way, I've done these things. I served as governor and showed I could get them done.

CROWLEY: Mr. President, last two minutes belong to you.

OBAMA: Barry, I think a lot of this campaign, maybe over the last four years, has been devoted to this nation that I think government creates jobs, that that somehow is the answer.

That's not what I believe. I believe that the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world's ever known.

I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk takers being rewarded. But I also believe that everybody should have a fair shot and everybody should do their fair share and everybody should play by the same rules, because that's how our economy's grown. That's how we built the world's greatest middle class.

And -- and that is part of what's at stake in this election. There's a fundamentally different vision about how we move our country forward.

I believe Governor Romney is a good man. Loves his family, cares about his faith. But I also believe that when he said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considered themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility, think about who he was talking about.

Folks on Social Security who've worked all their lives. Veterans who've sacrificed for this country. Students who are out there trying to hopefully advance their own dreams, but also this country's dreams. Soldiers who are overseas fighting for us right now. People who are working hard every day, paying payroll tax, gas taxes, but don't make enough income.

And I want to fight for them. That's what I've been doing for the last four years. Because if they succeed, I believe the country succeeds.

When my grandfather fought in World War II and he came back and he got a G.I. Bill and that allowed him to go to college, that wasn't a handout. That was something that advanced the entire country. And I want to make sure that the next generation has those same opportunities. That's why I'm asking for your vote and that's why I'm asking for another four years.

CROWLEY: President Obama, Governor Romney, thank you for being here tonight.

On that note we have come to an end of this town hall debate. Our thanks to the participants for their time and to the people of Hofstra University for their hospitality.

The next and final debate takes place Monday night at Lynn (ph) University in Boca Raton, Florida. Don't forget to watch. Election Day is three weeks from today. Don't forget to vote.

Good night.

(APPLAUSE)

END

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Presidential debates 2012
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Republican nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama listen to a question during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on October 16, 2012. UPI/John AngelilloPresident Barack Obama and Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney shake hands at the end of the final Presidential debate on the campus of Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida on October 22, 2012. UPI/Michael Reynolds/Pool
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