CHESAPEAKE, Va. -- Hoping to influence voter perceptions the day after Tuesday’s presidential debate, the Obama and Romney campaigns fanned out into crucial battleground states, as they continued the back and forth that enlivened the latest face-to-face encounter between the two men vying to occupy the White House.
During a visit to Chesapeake, in a must-win state for Republican Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor provided a blistering critique of President Obama’s debate performance.
“He had no answers,” Romney told about 3,500 supporters at a campus of Tidewater Community College in the conservative-leaning, military-heavy southeastern part of the Dominion State.
“Don’t you think that it’s time for him to put together a vision for what he’d do if he were elected?” Romney asked. “He’s got to come up with that over the weekend because there’s just one debate left, on Monday.”
The third and final debate will focus on foreign policy, which is likely to raise another contentious exchange over the Sept. 11 attack on the US consulate in Libya.
The two sparred over the shifting developments following the attack in Benghazi, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Interestingly, Romney made no mention of foreign policy -- or the exchange Tuesday night over the attack in Benghazi -- during his Virginia visit. He kept Wednesday’s remarks focused on the economy.
Who won Tuesday’s spirited debate was itself under debate Wednesday, as both sides and their spinmeisters predictably gave the edge to their candidate.
Snap polls and most pundits gave a much improved assessment of Obama’s performance after a flat effort two weeks ago in Denver.
On Wednesday, Obama headed to Iowa, his ninth trip to the crucial swing state, where early voting was already underway. The president repeated a refrain he used during the debate to again describe Romney’s economic plan as a “sketchy deal.”
“His tax plan doesn’t add up, his jobs plan doesn’t add any jobs, his deficit reduction plan adds to the deficit,” Obama added. “Mitt Romney is trying to sell you a sketchy deal.”
Vice President Joe Biden was stumping for votes in Colorado, while Representative Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential candidate, was in Ohio, where he tried to further close the gender gap with the Democratic ticket.
Ryan, like Romney, hit the Obama administration on its record on the economy, particularly on its impact on women.
“Look at where we are now: 23 million Americans struggling to find work,” he said, noting that 5.5 million of them women. “Twenty-six million women are trapped in poverty today. That’s the highest rate in 17 years. We need to get people back to work.”
Wednesday’s campaign appearances served as a continuation of Tuesday night’s debate, a back and forth debate extravaganza that energized supporters on both sides.
The president, for example, had a quip ready in Iowa on the subject of women and economy: “I got to tell you we don’t need to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified women.”
In Virginia, Romney had a retort for Obama’s attacks on his economic plan: “He spends most of his time trying to talk about how my plan won’t work. Well, what about his plan?” Romney said. “We know his plan has not worked.”
With just 20 days before the Nov. 6 election, both campaigns are intensifying their ground games and attacks. “In 20 days we decide what kind of America we’ll have,” Romney said.
The Virginia crowd was unabashed in its praise for Romney’s performance, although some gave points for a much-improved Obama.
“They were both very forceful,” said Joan Dretsch, 65.
Romney was strongest, she said, when he dismantled Obama’s economic record, agreeing with the Republican that the president has done little to produce jobs or keep the economy from being hobbled by mounting budget deficits.
As for Obama? “His strongest point was that he showed up, that he was there at the debate,” she said. “He wasn’t there for the first debate.”