But it will take days to determine the effect of Tuesday night’s event, and the candidates — as animated on Wednesday as they were onstage together — tried to re-litigate some of Tuesday’s most memorable exchanges.
Obama brought a triumphant tone to rallies in Iowa and Ohio after a performance that reassured supporters who were alarmed by his widely panned first debate two weeks earlier. Speaking to a boisterous crowd of about 2,000 in a sweaty gymnasium at an Iowa college, he mocked Romney for wanting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the nation’s new health-care law, which includes a provision that prevents insurers from denying coverage because of preexisting conditions.
“Being a woman is not a preexisting condition,” he said, echoing a Democratic theme that Romney is insensitive to the concerns of women, a crucial voting bloc with which the Republican has recently made gains.
Vice President Biden took the argument further at a rally in Colorado, ridiculing Romney as “sketchy,’’ especially for the debate-night comment that he had sought and received “binders full” of female job candidates while he was Massachusetts governor.
“When Governor Romney was asked a direct question about equal pay, he started talking about binders,” Biden told a crowd of 1,100 in the closely contested swing state. “Whoa! The idea that he had to go and ask where a qualified woman was, he just should have come to my house. He didn’t need a binder.”
Romney struck back, charging that Obama has “failed” women. From the economy to energy to immigration, the Republican repeated many of the same sharp critiques of Obama’s record that he delivered Tuesday night in New York.
On issue after issue, Romney brought up questions from voters in the session at Hofstra University and criticized Obama’s answers. “When it comes to his policies and his answers and his agenda, he’s pretty much running on fumes, and the American people want some real answers and a real agenda,” Romney told 3,500 people at a rally in Chesapeake, Va.
Although he didn’t claim victory, Romney said: “I have to be honest with you, I love these debates. You know, these things are great.”
Both campaigns found something to like in Tuesday’s session, the second of three encounters in what has been a closely fought presidential race focusing on a handful of key states. And even as the sprint to the Nov. 6 election resumed, they looked ahead to what is shaping up as a critical final debate on Monday in Boca Raton, Fla. The main subject will be foreign policy.