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PORTLAND -- The second debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney could be viewed as a toss-up, with the spirited sparring making for pretty good television, said Paul Gronke, chair of the Reed College political science department.

The audience was also engaged and moderator Candy Crowley did well, he said. Both candidates went through the 90 minutes neck-and-neck and both did well.

Romney held his ground by returning to a core question of Obama's 2008 campaign promises and what has actually transpired in four years, Gronke said.

Obama's strength was raising Romney's ties to Bain Capital, and to question the challenger's tax and budget plans, he said.

Some 50 million Americans watched the debate, he pointed out. Not a Super Bowl audience, but a World Series one, he said.

Had Obama been this strong two weeks ago in the first televised debate, the election would be over, Gronke said. Instead, this appears to be a race to the finish, with an engaged America awaiting the third debate, he said.

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