Published October 17, 2012
With less than three weeks left on the calendar before Election Day, President Obama on Wednesday followed up his second debate with Mitt Romney by amplifying his sharpest zingers from the night before -- in what appears to be a fresh effort by the president's campaign to make the final chapter of the 2012 race all about his opponent.
Obama's style Tuesday night was far more aggressive than his almost-dozing approach to their first debate Oct. 3.
"I'm still trying to figure out how to get the hang of this thing. But we're working on it," Obama joked with the crowd, during a stop Wednesday afternoon in Iowa.
Within seconds, though, Obama was hammering Romney again, indicating that the revamped approach will include a lot more Romney and a lot less Obama.
The president, who later was heading to a campaign stop in Ohio, brought back his knock against Romney's "five point" economic plan.
"It's really a one-point plan," Obama said. "It says folks at the very top play by their own set of rules."
The president also brought back his claim that the lack of specifics in Romney's tax cut plan should send a warning signal to voters.
"Everybody here has heard of the New Deal. .... Mitt Romney's trying to sell you a sketchy deal -- we are not buying it," the president said.
Romney, during Tuesday's debate and going into the final stretch, is trying to match the Obama campaign's intensity. He and Obama both interrupted each other during the New York debate and cut off the moderator repeatedly to finish their thoughts.
But on Wednesday, Romney also accused the president of avoiding his own record with his recent rhetoric.
"I have to be honest with you, I love these debates," Romney said in Chesapeake, Va. "These things are great. I think it's interesting that the president still doesn't have an agenda for a second term. Don't you think that it's time for him to finally put together a vision of what he'd do in the next four years if he were elected? I mean he's got to come up with that over this weekend because there's only one debate left, on Monday," Romney said.
There's not much time for either campaign to tinker with its message. Early voting has already begun in many states. And if the tone Tuesday night at Hofstra University was any gauge, it's going to be a rough-and-tumble three weeks.
The intensity reflects the polls. Since the first Obama-Romney face-off, the Republican nominee effectively brought the race into a dead heat across a number of key battlegrounds. Nationally, Romney has led among likely voters in several recent polls.
Both campaigns and their supporters are dumping millions into advertising in the final weeks. And it was clear this week that they'll both be making a fresh play for female voters -- a core Obama constituency that Romney has started to lure to his side in recent polls.
Romney, in Virginia, made the economic case to those voters.
"Why is it that there are 3.6 million more women in poverty today than when the president took office? This president has failed America's women," Romney said.
Obama, meanwhile, has focused on contraceptive care and equal pay in his appeal to women. He warns that Romney has said he wants to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
"You know a major difference in this campaign is that Governor Romney feels comfortable having politicians in Washington decide the health care choices that women are making," Obama said Tuesday night.
Romney countered, in reference to the so-called contraceptive mandate in the health care law, "I'd just note that I don't believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not. And I don't believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not."