Romney tries to build on debate momentum

FISHERSVILLE, Va. — Mitt Romney’s advisors moved quickly to try to capitalize on his strong debate performance as the candidate headed to Virginia’s Shenadoah Valley on Thursday, announcing a series of new ads and a renewed push to build their small donor base.

Campaign officials were clearly elated by Romney’s performance — toasting with drinks at the candidate’s hotel post-debate — after a rough few weeks in which  Romney began sliding in key swing state polls.

“Wasn’t that fabulous?” Romney’s brother Scott was overheard  telling a friend at the candidate’s hotel. Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul  tweeted that after the debate Wednesday night Romney received “more than 2 donations every second.”

PHOTOS: Memorable presidential debate moments

The Republican presidential nominee was also in a jovial mood aboard his campaign plane Thursday, laughing and chatting in a huddle with longtime confidant Bob White and other advisors as he flew from Colorado to Virginia. An American Research Group poll released earlier this week showed Obama leading Romney in Virginia by 2 percentage points — well within the margin of error.

“The governor tapped into something very important last night, which is this sharp contrast between 'we can’t afford four more years like the last four years,' which is forward-looking,” advisor Ed Gillepsie told reporters as Romney flew to Virginia, where the candidate is meeting up with running mate Paul D. Ryan for a joint rally featuring country star Trace Adkins.  

Gillespie, who held a 3½-minute briefing before the Romney plane landed in the Shenadoah Valley, argued that Romney had effectively made his argument against what he described as Obama’s agenda of higher taxes, increased debt and higher health insurance premiums. “Today we’re going to focus very specifically on this area of taxes, which is a very sharp contrast going forward,” he said.  

TRANSCRIPT: Read Obama, Romney’s arguments

Later Thursday evening, Romney was scheduled to appear with Ryan on Sean Hannity’s program on Fox News before the Fishersville rally. Romney plans to focus on the theme he honed last night — arguing that Obama’s tax policies would slow the growth of the economy and increase the “squeeze” on middle-class families.

Romney received an endorsement from the National Rifle Assn., which explained the fact that hundreds of people awaiting Romney in Fishersville were wearing fluorescent orange NRA hats.

Romney’s advisors pushed back against the Obama campaign’s accusation that he lied repeatedly from the debate podium on Wednesday night.

“You can’t trust the Obama campaign’s ads,” Gillespie said when asked about the Obama campaign’s new ad. “The Obama campaign is just wrong. … We saw it last night with the $5-trillion charge, which is just absurd,” he said referring to Obama’s charge that Romney’s tax plans would cost $5 trillion.   

The Romney campaign, which has made unemployment a central element of its drive to unseat Obama, will be paying close attention to the monthly jobs report, due out early Friday morning. Economists have forecast a slightly better report than August, with the U.S. jobless rate still ticking up slightly, to 8.2%.

PHOTOS: Scenes from the first presidential debate

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