HEMPSTEAD — US President Barack Obama launched aggressive attacks against Republican rival Mitt Romney on jobs, energy and Libya in their second debate last night as the Democrat tried to reclaim the momentum in a tight White House race.

US President Barack Obama (right) makes a point during yesterday’s debate as Republican rival Mitt Romney looks on.

Obama was much sharper and more energetic than in their opening debate two weeks ago, when his listless performance was heavily criticised and gave Romney’s campaign a much-needed boost in the run-up to the November 6 election.

The president scolded Romney for accusing him of trying to take political advantage of the attack by Islamist militants in Libya last month that killed four Americans, including the US Ambassador Chris Stevens.

“That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as president, that’s not what I do as commander in chief,” Obama said during the debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, calling the accusation “offensive”.

“I’m the president and I’m always responsible, and that’s why nobody’s more interested in finding out exactly what happened,” Obama said.

Romney questioned Obama’s claim that he called the Benghazi attack “an act of terror” in the White House Rose Garden the day afterward, but moderator Candy Crowley of CNN corrected the Republican. Transcripts show Obama did use the term that day.

The Republican accused Obama of failing to follow through on the promises of his 2008 campaign.

In one of his stronger moments in the 90-minute debate, Romney took aim at Obama’s economic record in office, saying it has led to 15 million more people on food stamps, slow growth and a lack of jobs.

“The middle class is getting crushed under the policies of a president who has not understood what it takes to get the economy working again. He keeps saying, ‘Look, I’ve created five million jobs.’ That’s after losing five million jobs. The entire record is such that the unemployment has not been reduced in this country,” the former Massachusetts governor said.

Polls showed voters judged Obama the winner. A CNN survey gave him the edge by 46 per cent to 39 per cent, while CBS had Obama the winner by 37 per cent to 30 per cent.

“I think Obama won this one. I’ll say I’m a Romney supporter, but I don’t think he effectively got all his points,” said audience member James Digirolamo, from Long Island, New York.

“I was a little disappointed how the moderator handled the debate, in particular the issue with the ‘terror’ remark,” he said, referring to criticism by Republicans that moderator Crowley intervened in favour of Obama during the exchange over Libya. (Reuters)

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