DENVER—There is perhaps no greater opportunity to get a group of adults into one room who have witnessed the same event, and hear such diametrically different interpretations of it, than the spin room after a presidential debate.
Advisors and supporters of President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney made their traditional appearances late Wednesday night before banks of cameras, each side to argue that their candidate clearly won the night, and how poorly their rival had fared.
Romney was enthusiastic and energetic, per his senior advisor Kevin Madden, while Obama aides David Plouffe and David Axelrod labeled the GOP nominee’s demeanor “testy.”
Romney advisors said the president offered no clear plans about what he would do in a second term and that his answers meandered.
“What was clear tonight was that President Barack Obama is incredibly uncomfortable talking about taxes and debt,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
On the contrary, said Obama officials. Romney focused on delivering zingers, while Obama thoughtfully laid out his plans, they argued.
“The president didn’t come into tonight with a checklist of attack lines,” said spokeswoman Jen Psaki, when asked why Obama didn’t raise many of the attacks that Democrats have pushed on the campaign trail, including Romney’s videotaped dismissal of 47% of Americans, or his record running Bain Capital.
“He came into tonight wanting to talk to the American people like adults and explain to them where he wanted to go on the economy, his plans to protect the American people from the Romney-Ryan plan to voucherize Medicare, his plans to protect Wall Street reform, and that was his goal coming into tonight,” she said.
As the race enters its final weeks, the campaigns sought to set some expectations for coming days. Psaki said the Romney campaign had set the stakes high for his performance to be game-changing.
“The question for them, what does this mean -- will they be up in Ohio and Iowa by this weekend?” she asked, knowing Romney entered the debate down in polls in both states.
The Romney campaign sought to downplay the night’s significance in upcoming polling, saying that the debate was part of an ongoing conversation with voters.
“I don’t think this is going to happen in one night,” Madden said. “I think what is going to happen is we have 34 days till election day, that this is going to be a larger conversation we’re going to be having over this debate and three others including the vice presidential. It’s a process rather than one event.”