Published October 20, 2012
They may have shared a night of laughs Thursday, but President Obama and Mitt Romney head into the weekend back on the attack, with days until their final debate and a little more than two weeks until Election Day.
Polls show Romney gaining ground on Obama in battleground states, including the pivotal Ohio, where a Fox News poll released Friday showed Obama's lead had shrunk to 3 percentage points, or within the margin of error. Another Fox News poll Friday showed Romney ahead in Florida.
Obama, after a lackluster performance in their first debate, is seeking to bounce back on the strength of his second-round performance Tuesday. But Romney is sure to make an issue of the Obama administration's handling of the deadly consulate attack in Libya when the two face off Monday for their final debate, which will focus on foreign policy.
The candidates each took turns Thursday night addressing a Catholic charity dinner in New York City, an election year tradition in which both sides make fun of each other and themselves.
But on Friday, Obama was back attacking Romney for his history of changing position on key issues like abortion, and on Friday he introduced "Romnesia."
"He's forgetting what his own positions are -- and he's betting that you will too," Obama told an audience in Virginia.
Romney's team, for its part, was back focused on Libya, following reports that Obama's administration could have known early on that militants, not angry protesters, launched the attack that killed the U.S. ambassador there.
"What we see in front of us is the absolute unraveling of the Obama administration's foreign policy," Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, told WTAQ radio in the election battleground state of Wisconsin.
"I'm excited we're going to have a chance to talk about that on Monday," Ryan added. He was referring to the approaching debate, which will be the last chance the candidates have to confront each other before millions of live viewers.
Obama, speaking Thursday night on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," insisted that information was shared with the American people as it came in. The attack is under investigation, Obama said, and "the picture eventually gets filled in."
The report from the CIA station chief was written late Wednesday, Sept. 12, and reached intelligence agencies in Washington the next day, intelligence officials said. It is not clear how widely the information was circulated. U.S. intelligence officials have said the information was just one of many widely conflicting accounts, which became clearer by the following week.
Democrats have spent the past week explaining the administration's handling of the attack.
"In the wake of an attack like this, in the fog of war, there's always going to be confusion," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday.
Congress is asking the administration for documents about the attack, in hopes of building a timeline of what the government knew and when.
Obama has weathered similar criticisms before. After the failed bombing of a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009 and the attempted car bombing in Times Square in New York City in 2010, the Obama administration at first said there were no indications of wider terrorist plots. The Christmas Day bomber turned out to be linked to al-Qaida, and the Times Square bomber was trained by the Pakistani Taliban.
Nevertheless, polls have consistently showed that voters trust Obama over Romney on foreign affairs, including the handling of terrorism. If Obama was worried that Monday's debate would change that, he showed no signs of it Thursday night.
Speaking at Thursday night's charity dinner, he offered this preview: "Spoiler alert: We got bin Laden."
Obama also got some good news Friday as a new report said unemployment rates fell slightly last month in nearly all of the battleground states that will determine the election. The presidency is decided in state-by-state contests, not a national popular vote. Forty-one of the 50 states are essentially already decided, and the candidates have taken the fight to the remaining nine, which include Ohio and Florida.
Voters will get one more update on the national unemployment rate, which now is 7.8 percent, just days before the election.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.