Obama Campaign Bullish after Strong Second Debate

It was no surprise that Obama's top brass was exultant after the President's feisty effort at the second presidential debate Tuesday night, lauding his "dominant" performance and predicting it would help invigorate dispirited supporters and solidify the campaign's narrow advantage in the handful of battleground states that will decide the election.

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BROOKS KRAFT / CORBIS FOR TIME

President Barack Obama participates in the second presidential debate, the only held in a townhall format, at the David Mack Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, Oct. 16, 2012.

After Barack Obama was beaten by Mitt Romney in Denver, his top advisers could barely mask their gloom. They skulked into the spin room late and tried to dress up a clear loss with complaints about Romney’s prevarications. In short order, most Obama surrogates openly conceded their candidate’s defeat, a rarity in a profession that requires one-sided sunniness.

So it was no surprise that Obama’s top brass was exultant after the President’s feisty effort at the second presidential debate Tuesday night, lauding his “dominant” performance and predicting it would help invigorate dispirited supporters and solidify the campaign’s narrow advantage in the handful of battleground states that will decide the election.

“If the election were held today, I’m as confident as anything I’ve been in my life, that we would win the election,” Obama’s senior adviser David Plouffe told reporters Tuesday night as the President’s motorcade sped away from the debate site in Hempstead, N.Y.

One of the President’s strongest moments, Plouffe argued, was the thrust-and-parry over the Obama Administration’s handling of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. After Romney castigated the President for not immediately characterizing the assault on the Benghazi compound as an “act of terror,” Obama retorted that he did in fact use the phrase in his first remarks about the tragedy, made in the Rose Garden the day after the attack. (You can read the transcript here.) Obama used the exchange to lecture Romney about executive responsibility.

“The president looked like a strong and resolute commander in chief,” Plouffe said, while Romney “looked like a political candidate playing politics.” The Benghazi issue may still prove problematic for Obama, who saw his foreign-policy approval ratings drop in the wake of the attack, but he did appear to score the political point at the Hempstead town hall.

Obama’s aides also said he successfully painted Romney’s economic policies as a return to the supply-side economics championed by previous Republican Presidents, replete with “sketchy” budget math. As Obama argued, Romney is “more conservative than President Bush” in policy areas like immigration, said Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki. Both she and Plouffe said the debate crystallized the incumbent’s advantage among women, who make up a majority of undecided voters in battleground states and, they claimed, would be put off by Romney’s positions on abortion and pay equality. “I don’t think women at home watched [the debate] and thought, That’s the guy who’s going to fight for me in the White House,” Psaki said.

It’s an open question how Obama’s combative approach Tuesday night will play. Pundits scolded both candidates for the debate’s fractious tone, suggesting the interruptions and testy crosstalk could alienate voters that both sides are courting. But Plouffe dismissed the notion that uncommitted voters would be miffed by the sight of the two candidates squabbling.”My sense is the American people probably liked that display, they liked that passion,” he said. “Whoever wins this election will have their handprint on our country’s future in a very, very significant way. So this is worth fighting for.”

Obama’s campaign aides have conceded Romney made gains in the polls based on his stellar showing in Denver. But they say the debate merely accelerated the tightening of a race they always envisioned to be a nail-biter at the end. “He captured a bunch of Republican-leaning independents,” Plouffe said. “So this is the race we expected all along.”

“When we were up in some public polls in September in battleground states by eight or 10 points, it was like fantasy,” he added. “These battleground states are going to be decided by one, two, three, four points at most.”

The Denver debacle touched off rounds of recriminations among Democratic supporters, and it’s clear that the underlying message — show some fight — seeped in. Advisers skirted questions about whether the President had prepared differently this time. “He reviewed clips,” Psaki said. “As you know, he looked back at his own performance, and obviously you take that into account as you’re preparing for the next debate, and that’s probably part of the difference.” She said that Obama’s team was ebullient watching the rematch. “There was a lot of whooping and clapping in the staff office watching the President’s performance,” Psaki said.

Thus begins a frantic three-week scramble to Nov. 6. During the final sprint, both sides will pull every lever at their disposal — from door-knocking and phone banking to a deluge of paid advertising — to mobilize their bases and make their closing arguments to the tiny sliver of uncommitted voters who remain. “Our sense is we’re being smarter about approaching those undecided voters than Romney is in terms of the allocation of our resources,” Plouffe said.

“We’ve got one more debate, we’ve got 21 more days,” he added. “We’ve got to execute strong here in the close.”

With reporting by Michael Scherer

96 comments
Godzilla1960
Godzilla1960

Joe Klein said it best: "Romney's proposals for the next four years are ridiculous; the President's are nonexistent."

Abraham Yeshuratnam
Abraham Yeshuratnam

American women

have been enjoying political and social rights long before the Obamas were

born.  Lucreta Mott and Elizabeth Cady

Stanton organized as early as in  1848 history's first "Woman's Rights

Convention" in Seneca Falls, N.Y    Team Obama's  false propaganda is that social freedom will

be thwarted if a Republican becomes a president.  American women are well organized and no

president can take away their freedom. To cite one example, Bush's teenage

daughter was arrested when she was found in a bar, and this shows the amount of

social freedom enjoyed by girls in America. No administration, Democrat or

Republican, can take away the freedom of women. It's all a sinister propaganda

by Obama to get the support of women. A casual reference to ‘binder’ by Romney  is sadistically exploited by Obama just to

show he is a defender of women, ignoring the fact that women in America enjoy

more  political and social freedom than

anywhere in the world.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 And yet the Republicans sure seem to want to make sure that they don't get paid the same as man or have a say in when and how the choose to have kids. This was clearly seen in the last debate when Mitt danced around both questions without giving a direct answer.

grammadry
grammadry

FYI, I met Brad Malt's (Romney's lawyer/tax advisor) wife at a social event where she stated that she will NOT be voting for Romney....interesting....

Sheepleherder
Sheepleherder

Being more aggressive than last time didn't make him the "winner" of this debate, the lower expectations did. Romney didn't do much to help his own cause but Obama didn't either. He still wasn't able to defend his last four years and he gave zero indication of what he would do differently if he were given another four. If I wanted empty promises I would call a used car dealer, I expected more from the President and from his wannabe replacement.

La_Randy
La_Randy

Read chupkar's comment above yours. 

Sheepleherder
Sheepleherder

 A display of "cool or calm" is neither negative nor unwarranted. If the "Leader of the Free World" can't stay cool and calm during a simple debate, are we supposed to believe they will have those qualities when they actually have their finger on the button?? Their aggressiveness has zero to do with their ability to govern.

As far as being "undecided", the ONLY people who have decided at this point are the party faithful. Every body else is waiting for the last minute to pinch their noses and pick the one they hate least. You never know, one of them may accidentally let slip what they really think about American taxpayers. One can only hope.

chupkar
chupkar

I get tired of when the candidates are cool or calm (and this goes way back) they are weak. If they argue (it's a DEBATE for crying out loud) they are too aggressive. Indies are all "oh I hate negativity" but anything more than utter politeness is negative and then they are bored. Seriously, the American people drive. me. nuts. Oh and BTW if you are still undecided at this point you just aren't paying attention. At. All.

Joseph Maldonado
Joseph Maldonado

Obama's Record:

U.S. exports: double-digit gains; Pell grants have doubled; Stock market has doubled; 32 consecutive months of growth; 4.4 million jobs lost by Bush, recovered by Obama; 4-yr low in foreclosures, 4-yr high in new construction; 30 consecutive months of growth; 18 new tax cuts for small business; Wall Street reform has been passed; Taxes cut for 160 million Americans; Average taxpayer pays average $3,500 less; Natural gas production, all time high; Renewable energy up 28%; Efficiency standards doubled; Taxes cuts for 160 million Americans; Torture has been banned; Credit card gouge fees ended; Senior drug costs lowered; 2.5 million manufacturing jobs added; Amnesty granted to children of illegals; $100B new investment in science and research; Libya liberated without loss of single American; Don't Ask Don't Tell wiped out; Equal Pay for women now protected; Stem cell research funded; $1 trillion in spending (lowest by any president in 60 years); Medicare and SS protected; Iraq war ended; Afghanistan war over in 2014, troops home!; Auto Industry has been saved; Bin Laden killed and 50 top lieutenants eradicated or emasculated; Over and above this, the President made 4x as many promises as any president in history and delivered on 3x as many. When you consider the names on that list -- Washington, Lincoln, Reagan, Kennedy, Jefferson, Clinton and over 30 others, that's really saying something.