Campaign continues after strong Romney debate

CNN - President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney return to the campaign trail in battleground states on Thursday after going toe-to-toe on dominant campaign issues of taxes, health care and the economy in a debate that analysts and a snap poll agreed the Republican challenger won.

Romney's supporters crowed about his performance, saying it reshaped a race that the former Massachusetts governor had appeared in danger of losing.

Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who played the role of Obama in debate rehearsals for Romney, said the GOP candidate had a "terrific night."

"He did exactly what he had to do for the undecided voter in Ohio or around the country," Portman said. "They were looking for two things: One, a discussion of the last four years and why we can't afford it for the next four, I thought he explained that well. Most importantly, he talked about his own policies and he was able to set the record straight on some of the misleading ads the Obama campaign has put out there about his tax plan about his budget plan, about his health care ideas and so on."

Top Democrats argued the first of three debates wouldn't alter the overall state of the presidential race.

"I think that Governor Romney is certainly a skilled debater. And last night he was able to elevate his level of performance. But he did not change the fundamental dynamics of this race, nor did he change some of the policies that actually got us into the economic mess that we have," Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a top surrogate for Obama, told CNN.

In exchanges full of policy proposals, facts and figures, Romney was more aggressive in the 90-minute encounter on Wednesday night at the University of Denver.

A forceful Romney criticized Obama's record and depicted the president's vision as one of big government, while the Democratic incumbent defended his achievements and challenged his rival's prescriptions as unworkable.

The post-debate verdict swung clearly to Romney.

"A week ago, people were saying this was over. We've got a horse race," said CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen, who called the debate Romney's best so far after the 22 the former Massachusetts governor took part in during the GOP primary campaign.

Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist and CNN contributor, expressed surprise at Romney's strong performance, saying he "rose to the moment" and seemed to benefit from the multiple primary debates.

"It looked like Romney wanted to be there and President Obama didn't want to be there," noted Democratic strategist and CNN contributor James Carville. "The president didn't bring his 'A' game."

The CNN/ORC International poll of 430 people who watched the debate showed 67 percent thought Romney won, compared with 25 percent for Obama.

"I don't think the American people make a judgment on who they're going to vote for by an instant poll coming out of a debate," said Jen Psaki, the Obama campaign press secretary.

Obama remained in Colorado for his first post-debate appearance before heading to Wisconsin. Romney will join running mate Rep. Paul Ryan at a rally in Virginia. Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden will speak at an Iowa campaign event.

The next presidential debate is Oct. 16 in New York, and the third takes place on Oct. 22 in Florida. Biden and Ryan will debate on Oct. 11 in Kentucky.

On Wednesday, neither presidential candidate scored dramatic blows that will make future highlight reels, and neither veered from campaign themes and policies to date.

But Romney came off as the more energized candidate overall by repeatedly attacking Obama on red-meat issues for Republicans such as health care reform and higher taxes, while the president began with lengthy explanations and only later focused more on what his opponent was saying.

Moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS had trouble keeping the duo within time limits for responses, especially Obama, who ended up speaking four minutes longer than Romney.

Romney's strongest moments came in emphasizing his frequent criticism of Obama's record, saying the nation's high unemployment and sluggish economic recovery showed the president's policies haven't worked.

"There's no question in my mind if the president is re-elected, you'll continue to see a middle-class squeeze," Romney said, adding that another term for Obama also will mean the 2010 Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, "will be fully installed."

At another point, he noted how $90 billion spent on programs and policies to develop alternative energy sources could have been devoted to hiring teachers or other needs that would bring down unemployment.

Obama argued that his policies were working to bring America back from the financial and economic crisis he inherited, and that Romney refused to divulge specifics about his proposed tax plans and replacements for the health care law and Wall Street reform that the Republican has pledged to repeal.

"At some point, the American people

CNN - President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney return to the campaign trail in battleground states on Thursday after going toe-to-toe on dominant campaign issues of taxes, health care and the economy in a debate that analysts and a snap poll agreed the Republican challenger won.

Romney's supporters crowed about his performance, saying it reshaped a race that the former Massachusetts governor had appeared in danger of losing.

Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who played the role of Obama in debate rehearsals for Romney, said the GOP candidate had a "terrific night."

"He did exactly what he had to do for the undecided voter in Ohio or around the country," Portman said. "They were looking for two things: One, a discussion of the last four years and why we can't afford it for the next four, I thought he explained that well. Most importantly, he talked about his own policies and he was able to set the record straight on some of the misleading ads the Obama campaign has put out there about his tax plan about his budget plan, about his health care ideas and so on."

Top Democrats argued the first of three debates wouldn't alter the overall state of the presidential race.

"I think that Governor Romney is certainly a skilled debater. And last night he was able to elevate his level of performance. But he did not change the fundamental dynamics of this race, nor did he change some of the policies that actually got us into the economic mess that we have," Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a top surrogate for Obama, told CNN.

In exchanges full of policy proposals, facts and figures, Romney was more aggressive in the 90-minute encounter on Wednesday night at the University of Denver.

A forceful Romney criticized Obama's record and depicted the president's vision as one of big government, while the Democratic incumbent defended his achievements and challenged his rival's prescriptions as unworkable.

The post-debate verdict swung clearly to Romney.

"A week ago, people were saying this was over. We've got a horse race," said CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen, who called the debate Romney's best so far after the 22 the former Massachusetts governor took part in during the GOP primary campaign.

Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist and CNN contributor, expressed surprise at Romney's strong performance, saying he "rose to the moment" and seemed to benefit from the multiple primary debates.

"It looked like Romney wanted to be there and President Obama didn't want to be there," noted Democratic strategist and CNN contributor James Carville. "The president didn't bring his 'A' game."

The CNN/ORC International poll of 430 people who watched the debate showed 67 percent thought Romney won, compared with 25 percent for Obama.

"I don't think the American people make a judgment on who they're going to vote for by an instant poll coming out of a debate," said Jen Psaki, the Obama campaign press secretary.

Obama remained in Colorado for his first post-debate appearance before heading to Wisconsin. Romney will join running mate Rep. Paul Ryan at a rally in Virginia. Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden will speak at an Iowa campaign event.

The next presidential debate is Oct. 16 in New York, and the third takes place on Oct. 22 in Florida. Biden and Ryan will debate on Oct. 11 in Kentucky.

On Wednesday, neither presidential candidate scored dramatic blows that will make future highlight reels, and neither veered from campaign themes and policies to date.

But Romney came off as the more energized candidate overall by repeatedly attacking Obama on red-meat issues for Republicans such as health care reform and higher taxes, while the president began with lengthy explanations and only later focused more on what his opponent was saying.

Moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS had trouble keeping the duo within time limits for responses, especially Obama, who ended up speaking four minutes longer than Romney.

Romney's strongest moments came in emphasizing his frequent criticism of Obama's record, saying the nation's high unemployment and sluggish economic recovery showed the president's policies haven't worked.

"There's no question in my mind if the president is re-elected, you'll continue to see a middle-class squeeze," Romney said, adding that another term for Obama also will mean the 2010 Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, "will be fully installed."

At another point, he noted how $90 billion spent on programs and policies to develop alternative energy sources could have been devoted to hiring teachers or other needs that would bring down unemployment.

Obama argued that his policies were working to bring America back from the financial and economic crisis he inherited, and that Romney refused to divulge specifics about his proposed tax plans and replacements for the health care law and Wall Street reform that the Republican has pledged to repeal.

"At some point, the American people