Obama: Debate was 'bad night'
BY DAVID ESPO & STEVE PEOPLES Associated Press
Thursday, October 11, 2012
10/11/12 at 4:33 AM
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SIDNEY, Ohio - President Barack Obama conceded Wednesday he did poorly in a debate last week that fueled a comeback by his rival in the race for the White House. Mitt Romney barnstormed battleground Ohio and pledged "I'm not going to raise taxes on anyone" in a new commercial.
A perennial campaign issue flared unexpectedly as Romney reaffirmed he is running as a "pro-life candidate and I'll be a pro-life president." He spoke one day after saying in an interview he was not aware of any abortion-related legislation that would become part of his agenda if he wins the White House.
Romney and Obama maneuvered in a race with 27 days to run as Vice President Joe Biden and Republican running mate Paul Ryan prepared to debate Thursday night in Danville, Ky.
Whatever the impact of the Biden-Ryan encounter, last week's debate boosted Romney in the polls nationally, to the point that Obama was still struggling to explain a performance even his aides and supporters say was subpar.
"Gov. Romney had a good night. I had a bad night. It's not the first time I've had a bad night," Obama said in an ABC interview.
Asked if it was possible he had handed the election to Romney, he replied: "No."
"What's important is the fundamentals of what this race is about haven't changed," he said. "You know, Gov. Romney went to a lot of trouble to try to hide what his positions are," he said, referring to abortion as an example.
Despite the presidential display of confidence, public opinion polls suggested the impact of last week's debate was to wipe out most, if not all, of the gains Obama made following both parties' national conventions and the emergence in late summer of a videotape in which Romney spoke dismissively of 47 percent of Americans whom he said pay no income taxes. They feel as if they are victims, he said, adding they don't take personal responsibilities for their lives.
Eager to capitalize on his newfound momentum, Romney told more than 7,000 at one of three Ohio rallies: "We can't afford four more years of Barack Obama."
"Ohio could well be the place that elects the next president of the United States," he said. "I need you to do that job. We're going to win together."
Romney's new television commercial was an appeal to voters' pocketbooks - and also a rebuttal to Obama's claim that Romney had a plan to cut taxes by $5 trillion on the wealthy that would mean higher taxes for the middle class.
"The president would prefer raising taxes," Romney is shown saying in an exchange from last week. "I'm not going to raise taxes on anyone. ... My priority is putting people back to work in America."
Unemployment and the economy have been the dominant issues, and while Romney gained from the debate, last week's drop in the jobless rate to 7.8 percent gave Obama a new talking point for the Democratic claim that his policies are helping the country recover, however slowly, from the worst recession in decades.
Romney also sought to lay any abortion-related controversy to rest. "I think I've said time and again that I'm a pro-life candidate and I'll be a pro-life president," he said, renewing his promise to cut off federal aid for Planned Parenthood and implement a ban on the use of foreign aid for abortions overseas.
But by the time he spoke, Obama's aides had already jumped on comments from an interview with The Des Moines Register in which Romney said "there's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda."
Stephanie Cutter, Obama's deputy campaign manager, told reporters on a conference call that Romney was "cynically and dishonestly" hiding his positions on women's issues. "We're not saying he's changed his mind on these issues. We're saying he's trying to cover up his beliefs," she said.
Vice presidential encounters rarely make a significant difference in a White House campaign, although aides engage in the same sort of attempt to shape public expectations.
For Ryan's camp, that meant whispering that the 42-year-old Wisconsin congressman and House Budget Committee chairman was comfortable discussing spending issues and domestic policy, but might not be able to hold his own on foreign policy, a Biden strong suit.
The vice president's side let it be known that Ryan is a man who knows the budget better than anyone - but it's a version that omits mention of Biden's nearly four decades of experience in government and his role as Obama's point man in budget negotiations with Republicans on deficit reduction.
Vice presidential debate tonight
Vice President Joe Biden and his Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, will debate at 8 p.m. Thursday at Centre College in Danville, Ky.
The debate will be televised by major networks and cable stations.
Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Asheville, N.C., last week. The Democrat has one vice presidential debate under his belt: against Sarah Palin four years ago. Associated Press file
GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan speaks in Swanton, Ohio, last week. His knowledge of budget matters is expected to come into play in Thursday night's debate. Associated Press file