Washington: Going on the offensive right from the word go, a decidedly more aggressive President Barack Obama mocked his Republican challenger Mitt Romney's plans as they sparred over taxes, economy, energy and national security in their second encounter.
Romney, who by all accounts bested the president in their first encounter two weeks ago to put his campaign on an upswing, in turn used the pivotal second encounter at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York, to recount a litany of Obama's own failings as president.
Meeting just three weeks before the November 6 presidential poll, the two contenders went at each other often on topics ranging from the economy and taxes to energy to women's rights and to immigration in a tension filled exchange.
Mocking Romney's five-point economic plan, Obama suggested: "Governor Romney says he's got a five-point plan. Governor Romney doesn't have a five-point plan. He has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules."
"That's been his philosophy in the private sector. That's been his philosophy as a governor. And that's been his philosophy as a presidential candidate," he said. Romney called Obama's assessment "way off the mark."
Obama suggested that Romney's tax proposals were a "sketchy deal" for the American people as he sought to tie the Republican nominee to George W. Bush, while Romney stressed that though Republican he was in many ways different from the former President.
The two candidates frequently interrupted each other, in what was turning out to be a feistier face-off than the first round.
In their first exchange on last month's terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which left four Americans dead, including the US ambassador, Obama seemed to flash anger as he turned and stared down Romney, calling the Republican's suggestion that his administration would play politics with the attack "offensive."
"That's not how a commander in chief operates. You don't turn national security into a political issue," Obama said of Romney's accusation, as details emerged about the attack, that the White House had expressed sympathy for the protesters besieging diplomatic posts in Egypt, Libya and beyond.
Romney argued that Obama had left the White House to go campaigning shortly after the attack, and accused the president of having failed to label the attack in Libya an act of terror.
When moderator Candy Crowley, CNN Chief Political Correspondent, intervened and contended Obama had actually done so, members of the audience applauded - in violation of debate rules.