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October 16, 2012

Face to face: Obama, Romney in crackling debate

(Continued)

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. —

While most of the debate was focused on policy differences, there was one more-personal moment, when Obama said Romney had investments in China.

"Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?" Romney interrupted.

"You know, I don't look at my pension. It's not as big as yours," shot back Obama to his wealthier rival.

Under the format agreed to in advance, members of an audience of 82 uncommitted voters posed questions to the president and his challenger.

Nearly all of them concerned domestic policy until one raised the subject of the recent death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya in a terrorist attack at an American post in Benghazi. Romney said it took Obama a long time to admit the episode had been a terrorist attack, but Obama said he had said so the day after in an appearance in the Rose Garden outside the White House.

When moderator Candy Crowley of CNN said the president had in fact done so, Obama, prompted, "Say that a little louder, Candy."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has taken responsibility for the death of Ambassador L. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, but Obama said bluntly, "I'm the president, and I'm always responsible."

Romney said it was "troubling" that Obama continued with a campaign event in Las Vegas on the day after the attack in Libya, an event the Republican said had "symbolic significance and perhaps even material significance."

Obama seemed to bristle. He said it was offensive for anyone to allege that he or anyone in his administration had used the incident for political purposes. "That's not what I do."

One intense exchange focused on competing claims about whether energy production is increasing or slowing. Obama accused Romney of misrepresenting what has happened — a theme he returned to time and again. Romney strode across the stage to confront Obama face to face, just feet from the audience.

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