Continued from page 2

For his part Mr. Obama told voters to judge him by actions such as the auto industry, which he boosted by expanding the government bailout begun under President George W. Bush. He said Mr. Romney, a former businessman, would have let GM and Chrysler go bankrupt, which would have cost more than one million jobs.

“We bet on the auto industry and it came surging back – that’s what I want to do for the whole country,” the president said.

Mr. Romney replied that Mr. Obama, too, put Detroit auto companies through bankruptcy, which they emerged from leaner and more competitive. He said that was what he wanted, too.

That first debate earlier this month gave Mr. Romney a tangible boost in the polls, and he has continued that momentum. Hours before Tuesday’s debate, Gallup released its latest poll numbers showing Mr. Romney hitting 50 percent support among likely voters, or 4 percentage points more than the president.

State polls show the Republican narrowing the gap or taking the lead in some battleground states and even showed him poised to expand the field of states in play. A new Quinnipiac University Poll Tuesday showed Mr. Obama leading by only 4 percentage points in Pennsylvania — a state that has been out of the GOP’s reach for more than a decade.

And where Mr. Romney had a bad September, suffering self-inflicted wounds based on caught-on-camera comments he made saying that 47 percent of Americans are dependent on government and see themselves as victims, Mr. Obama has had the rougher October.

Better-than-expected unemployment numbers have been tempered by criticism over the way his administration handled the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

On Tuesday, Mr. Obama seemed to answer many of those questions and also raised a key attack on Mr. Romney — the 47 percent remarks — at the very end of the debate, leaving the Republican no chance to reply.

Mr. Obama said those 47 percent include seniors and the military, and said they are who he is working for in office.

“I want to fight for them. That’s what I’ve been doing the last four years,” he said.