Presidential Debate Winner: Obama Smashes Romney in Second Presidential Debate

It's clear: President Obama won tonight's second presidential debate against Mitt Romney at Hofstra University

It might be the magic of lowered expectations, but I can't be the only one who thought the president's performance tonight was a complete reversal, slamming Romney on virtually every point that came up for discussion.

"That's not true, Governor Romney!"

"My pension's not as big as yours."

"Governor, you're the last person who's going to get tough on China!"

Romney seemed caught completely off guard by Obama's aggressive defense, and at times seemed in near-shock at the president's forceful jabs at his record and character. On one or two occasions, he even seemed genuinely hurt - but still unable to defend himself.

On the other side of the aisle, Obama's stage maneuvers were precise and targeted. On a tough question on the Libya Embassy attacks — “Why was security not increased at the Embassy?” — Obama managed to dodge the question, instead emphasizing his response and comparing it to the widely-panned response from the Romney campaign. “Weak on Libya” is probably not going to be the Romney campaign's attack line anytime soon. Neither will his weak rejoinders on women's rights (he'll put more women to work by improving the economy; nevermind that at Romney's Bain Capital, there were no female partners) or the strange and unconvincing focus on Chinese currency manipulation as key cause of the ongoing instability of the economy.

President Obama had a difficult task ahead of him in this debate. He had to simultaneously inspire a vision for the future of America under his second term, fight back against Romney without appearing pushy or bullying, and emphasize that the economy is improving under his watch and will continue to improve faster than under a President Romney. On all three counts, this was a clear-cut victory.

Independents expected Romney to do better than Obama in this debate in a 42-31% split. They are crucial to victory in this election.

Tonight, Obama clearly demonstrated to undecided voters that he is the more capable candidate. He also clearly painted Romney as an opportunistic, misleading pretender. Nothing will be settled until the polls come in — but until then, I'm calling this as a straightforward Obama victory.

For the play-by-play analysis of how it all went down, check out my live blog.