The Democratic argument has been that Romney lied about his plans on the stage last week in front of 68 million television viewers in a way that disguises their potential impact on middle-class families.
In recent campaign advertising and in the president’s post-debate stump speeches, the outlines of Obama’s new approach are visible — and appear to reflect the lines of argument and rebuttal that he failed to make onstage in Denver. The strategy may become even more visible Thursday night, when Vice President Biden debates Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan in their only face-to-face encounter.
Obama has tested some catchy phrases in recent days. “That’s not leadership — that’s salesmanship,” the president said of Romney at a Tuesday campaign rally at Ohio State University, employing the kind of one-liner that his advisers had dismissed as un-presidential before the first debate.
In a radio interview Wednesday, Obama said he had been “too polite” onstage last week with Romney. It was the latest of several defenses the campaign has offered up since his performance in Denver; earlier, aides had said Obama was simply too stunned by Romney’s deceit to reply adequately.
Either way, Obama vowed to respond more energetically at their next matchup, at Hofstra University in New York on Tuesday.
“It’s fair to say we will see a little more activity at the next” debate, Obama said on the “The Tom Joyner Morning Show,” a nationally syndicated radio program. “We have four weeks left in this election, and we’re going to take it to them and make sure everyone understands what’s at stake.”
Romney advisers have called Obama’s questions about their candidate’s honesty evidence that the president is unable to defend his record on job creation, health care and the management of the deficit. Romney has sought to press his post-debate advantage in recent days, even taking on Obama’s foreign policy record, once seen as the incumbent’s strength.
In the radio interview, Obama said he expected the race to turn back his way, beginning Thursday night with the vice-presidential debate. He also dismissed the Democratic angst that has followed his performance in Denver as the same misplaced doubts that dogged his campaign four years ago.
“By next week, I think a lot of the hand-wringing will be complete because we’re going to go ahead and win this thing,” Obama said. “You were around in 2008. How many times were people saying we weren’t going to win?”
In a separate interview with ABC News’s Diane Sawyer on Wednesday, Obama said of the debate: “Governor Romney had a good night. I had a bad night. It’s not the first time I’ve had a bad night.”