Moments after the second presidential debate ended David Gregory rushed to offer assurance to Barack Obama supporters as he declared: "I think liberals can breathe a sigh of relief. It's not curtains for the President. He showed up and showed up big tonight."
While Mitt Romney's performance was called "strong" by Gregory and his colleague Chuck Todd, both of them agreed, during NBC's Tuesday night post debate coverage, that the GOP nominee "stumbled" on the issue of Libya.
After Gregory noted how Obama was "more aggressive" and "had a lot of fight in him" the Meet the Press moderator proclaimed that Romney: "Stumbled on this issue of Libya, saying the President call it an act of terror immediately. That's just not true, according to the transcript." Todd agreed that Romney had "stumbled there at the end of the Libya question" adding later the former Massachusetts governor had been "rattled" by the Libya portion of the debate.
The following observations were aired on NBC's October 16 live coverage of the second presidential debate:
DAVID GREGORY: Well, I think liberals can breathe a sigh of relief. It's not curtains for the President. He showed up and showed up big tonight. He was more aggressive. He had a lot of fight in him. A little light in his vision for the future, Brian. But no question he made a point of studying his opposition research on Romney. And as you mentioned over and over again he said, "What Mr. Romney said, what Governor Romney said just isn't true."
Romney was strong too. Wrapping the economic troubles of the last four years around the President's neck. He stumbled on this issue of Libya, saying the President didn't call it an act of terror immediately. That's just not true, according to the transcript. More debate to be had on that issue but that was definitely a stumble.
CHUCK TODD: A good lawyer, I would imagine Savannah [Guthrie] would agree with this, should know the answer to a question before you ask it and that's where Mitt Romney, I think, stumbled there at the end on the Libya question.
Look, overall it clearly a different President Obama. He came out wanting to make sure he let people know, he wants a second term. He was much more engaged. Definitely seemed to have study the Romney playbook. Took Romney a lot more or appeared to take Romney as a more serious threat there. I thought Romney was rather strong, if you will, for the first hour of the debate. But that Libya moment. It was, you saw the President and, and you know we could say how, how did they - you can tell, by the way, that they seemed to almost practice some of their motions. That, you know, it was clear that the President made the decision that when Libya comes up "I'm going to stare Romney down, right in his face" and vice versa. And that, that moment is gonna be one that's gonna be replayed and replayed. Yes we could debate whether what was the tone of what the President was inferring when he said "act of terror," at the time of Libya. But Mitt Romney seemed to stumble and he seemed to be rattled after that question. He was a different Mitt Romney I would, I would argue for the last 15 minutes of that debate.
But overall, sort of, okay where does this set the race? I think this is one of those where both bases feel engaged by their guy. I think there's certainly some disappointment, probably, in the conservative base that, that Romney wasn't tougher on Libya. But this means we're for, we're headed for a grind-it-out 22 days Brian.
More on Libya:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: David Gregory, as we mentioned earlier the President hung his argument on Libya. This question of terrorism. Predicated it on the use of the word, in his remarks from the Rose Garden. This is going to get thoroughly hashed out.
DAVID GREGORY: Well it is, because Romney said tonight "You never called it an act of terror." He uses, the President does, those very words in the Rose Garden, in the response to the attack. But, at the same time, the President also refers to the idea that there was some injury to Islam that was no justification for violence. And the reality is that the administration, for days, suggested, including on Meet the Press and other venues, by the ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, that it was a response to the video, like it had been in Cairo. And it was only later that they determined, in fact, no this was a terrorist act. So there's all kinds of questions about security. What they knew at what particular time, gauging the threat, the terrorist threat in Libya? And it goes to the larger question of the President's handling of the entire region. But Romney misfired on that tonight by getting caught up in what the President actually said in the Rose Garden. Sort of, you know, getting caught in that area, instead of the larger issue.