After his dismal performance in the first debate, President Barack Obama rebounded Wednesday night with a feisty performance in his "town-hall" style face-to-face against Republican challenger Mitt Romney. 

Democrats appeared widely pleased with an Obama who appeared much more focused and forthright against Romney compared to his overly polite and reserved demeanour on October 3.

Immediate polls suggest voters gave the incumbent the upperhand with the CNN poll tipped to Obama with 46% to Romney's 39%. Of respondents to a CBS poll, 37% said Obama was stronger compared to 30% for Romney.

In a tense debate, Obama challenged Romney on his shifting positions on tax policies, prompting Romney to retaliate by repeatedly attacking Obama's economic record over the past four years.

When sparring over Romney's investments in China, Romney challenged the President to look at investments in his own pensions. The President quipped: "I don't look at my pension. It's not as big as yours."

At one point, the two presidential candidates squared off, face to face, arguing and talking over each other 

Speaking about Obama's much needed burst of energy, Peter Baker in the New York Times, wrote: "Thirteen days after he took presidential decorum to a Xanax extreme, he tucked away a dinner of steak and potatoes and then went out on stage with plenty of red meat for anxious supporters."

"Most improved -- that award goes to Barack Obama," CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen said. "I think he had a much stronger debate tonight."

After Big Bird in the first debate and Joe Biden's smirk one week ago, this time the Internet meme was Romney's use of the expression "binders full of women."

When speaking about searching for qualified women to fill cabinet posts, Romney recounted: “I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks,’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.” 

The two candidates will meet for one more debate on October 22 in Boca Raton, Florida, ahead of the Nov. 6 vote.