Two days before the second presidential debate of the general election, the Obama campaign promised a more animated president, but the Romney campaign said it would not matter because the Republican nominee has seized the momentum.
The president “knew as he’s watched the tape of that [first] debate that he’s got to be more energetic,” Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think you’ll see somebody who’s very passionate about the choice that our country faces and putting that choice in front of voters.”
“Well, the president can change his style,” Romney campaign adviser Ed Gillespie said on the same program. “He can change his tactics. He can’t change his record. And he can’t change his policies. And that’s what this election is about.”
Obama was disappointed by his performance in the first presidential debate two weeks ago in Denver, according to campaign aides. Since then, he has endured mockery on “Saturday Night Live” and criticism from within his party.
On Sunday in Williamsburg, Va., where he was practicing for the next debate, Obama said his preparation is “going great,” according to Politico. The remark represented a dramatic turnaround: Before the first debate, the president characterized rehearsal as “a drag.”
Romney, by contrast, appeared to embrace the initial debate as an opportunity to reinvigorate his flagging campaign, and he has enjoyed a bounce in swing state polls since his strong showing.
The Romney campaign has argued that the former Massachusetts governor’s resurgence is not the fleeting product of one good night.
But the Obama campaign, while conceding Romney’s effectiveness in Denver, has contended that the GOP standard bearer fared well in part because he misrepresented his positions. Since the first debate, the president and his surrogates have accused Romney of “walking away” from his tax plan, which includes tax cuts that Romney plans to offset with loophole closures and deduction eliminations, making the proposal revenue neutral.
During the debate, Romney did not materially change his proposal but emphasized promises to protect the middle class from a net tax increase and not to add to the federal deficit. In other settings, he has stressed the tax cuts.
David Axelrod, an Obama campaign adviser, said the president will hit harder on Romney’s policy adjustments in Tuesday’s debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. The forum will run from 9 to 10:30 p.m.
“We saw Governor Romney sort of serially walk away from his own proposals,” Axelrod said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Certainly the president is going to be willing to challenge him on it, as we saw the vice president challenge Paul Ryan” during the vice presidential debate last week.
Ryan, the Wisconsin representative who is Romney’s running mate, earned high marks on Sunday from Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia, a top campaign surrogate.
“What we learned about Paul Ryan [during the debate] is he is thoughtful, he understands the budget better than anybody else, and that the top issue facing the country isn’t Bain Capital, it isn’t Mitt Romney’s tax returns, it isn’t Big Bird, it’s how do we get the greatest country on earth out of debt and back to work?” McDonnell said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Jennifer Granholm, a former Democratic governor of Michigan, offered a different assessment, saying “what we learned about Paul Ryan was that he is as good as his boss at obfuscating what their plan is.”
Kasim Reed, the Democratic mayor of Atlanta, praised the debate performance of Vice President Joe Biden, who “dominated” Ryan, in Reed’s estimation.
“I thought he offered him an internship after it was all over,” Reed joked. “The fact of the matter is he dominated him. Now people can talk about Joe Biden, but what I think people like about him is he’s authentic.”
Ryan and Biden battled at length during their debate over the government’s response to the terrorist attack on the American consulate in Libya on Sept. 11 , which killed the US ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three others. Romney and Obama probably will go head to head on the issue for the first time Tuesday because the second debate, unlike the first, will include foreign policy.
Each campaign sought to frame its debate argument on the Sunday political talk shows.
Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, Romney’s debate practice partner, charged that the Obama administration deliberately misled the public about the nature of the attack.
“Why did the administration try so hard to create the wrong image as to what happened?” Portman said on ABC’s “This Week.” “You know, they went out of their way to try to leave the impression this was because of some video. It wasn’t. It was a premeditated terrorist attack that terrible night in Benghazi.”
Obama campaign surrogates maintained that the president’s administration has shared information with the public as it has become available.Callum Borchers can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.