US Republican presidential nominee and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally in Chesapeake, Virginia, October 17, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/Jason Reed / REUTERS/Jim Young
HEMPSTEAD, NY — President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney weren't bruised or battered enough from Tuesday's fiery debate here to take a break from the campaign.
Both men touted their own performances in the testy clash to supporters in key swing states Wednesday morning.
"Now I have to be honest with you, I love these debates," Romney said to cheering supporters at a community college in Chesapeake, Va. "These things are great."
Romney has put in two strong debate performances — including a decisive win over Obama in Denver earlier this month — that have propelled him in the polls recently.
Where once Obama was opening up a lead in the election, the race is now locked in a dead heat and Romney is even pulling ahead in some polls.
Obama told students at a rally in Mount Vernon, Iowa, Wednesday morning that he's getting better and has one debate left to improve even more.
"As many of you know we had our second debate last night. You know, I'm still trying to figure out how to get the hang of this thing — debating. But we're working on it. We'll keep on improving as time goes on. I've got one left," he said.
While snap polls taken after Tuesday's town hall matchup showed viewers generally thought Obama slightly edged Romney in the debate, Romney won on the issue of the economy, so both camps are claiming victory.
Obama was widely panned for his lacklustre performance in Denver earlier this month, but Democrats are happy with his more aggressive, energetic showing Tuesday, in which he blasted Romney repeatedly as a liar and a flip-flopper.
"I'm enormously pleased with the president's performance and I think undecided voters saw a commanding, in-charge president that talked specifically about what he's done and what he wants to do to move this economy forward and continue to strengthen it," Robert Gibbs, a senior advisor to the Obama campaign, told CNN Wednesday.
But without a unanimous win for either candidate, it's unlikely Tuesday's town hall showdown will have the same effect on the polls that their battle in Denver did.
So the candidates will continue to campaign in crucial battleground states heading into Monday's final debate in Florida, where the focus will be exclusively foreign policy.
And that means Romney will get another kick at the can to attack Obama on the terrorist attack in Libya on Sept. 11 that killed a U.S. ambassador and three other diplomatic workers.
The Libya scandal is blowing up as a public relations nightmare for the White House, with evidence mounting that the Obama administration was woefully wrong — if not purposefully lying — when it denied the attack was terrorism, but rather the work of a spontaneous mob.
On Tuesday, Romney missed an opportunity to deliver a big blow to Obama on the nature of the Libya attack and stumbled instead when trying to walk through the timeline of what Obama said when.
Conservatives are crying foul and blame the debate moderator, CNN's Candy Crowley, for playing favourites and incorrectly siding with Obama during the Libya exchange and for interrupting Romney more than Obama — 28 times to nine, according to one conservative blogger's count — and allowing Obama to speak for nearly four minutes longer during the 90-minute debate.
Celebrity conservative talk show host Glenn Beck tweeted Tuesday night, "Candy loves to police Romney! As soon as he begins to win she shuts him down."
And one conservative group, Americans for Limited Government, even called for Crowley to be fired Wednesday.
"Crowley's behavior goes beyond despicable as it was a blatant attempt to influence the presidential election," the group said in a statement. "If CNN wants to maintain any shred of credibility as a 'news' organization, they should fire Crowley immediately for her gross violation of whatever remains of journalistic standards."
CBS' veteran political anchor and Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer will moderate Monday's debate in Florida.