Published December 23, 2015
President Obama may be recalibrating his campaign rhetoric on Al Qaeda, in the aftermath of the Libya terror attack.
Before that attack and as recently as a week ago, Obama had taken to saying Al Qaeda is on the road to defeat. During a Miami stop on Oct. 11, he said: "And today, Al Qaeda is on the run and Osama bin Laden is dead."
But at the debate Tuesday and on the campaign trail Wednesday, the Al Qaeda reference appeared to have been walked back.
"You know four years ago I told you we'd end the war in Iraq, and I did. I said we'd end the war in Afghanistan, and we are. I said we'd focus on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and we have, and Bin Laden is dead," Obama said in Mount Vernon, Iowa, on Wednesday.
His language at Tuesday's debate also marked a subtle shift. "I said we'd refocus attention on those who actually attacked us on 9/11, and we have gone after Al Qaeda's leadership like never before and Usama bin Laden is dead," he said.
It's unclear whether the change is intentional, and whether the campaign intends to drop the "on the run" language for good.
A representative with the Obama camp did not return an email seeking comment Wednesday.
But the tweaks follow tough criticism from Republicans who claim the terror strike is evidence that groups like Al Qaeda are not "on the run."
The president's team, though, was voicing confidence about Obama's performance, particularly on the Libya question, in the aftermath of Tuesday's debate.
Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday it "was one of the best moments for the president, one of the best moments in recent debate history."
At the debate, Obama appeared to take responsibility for security failures leading up to the Benghazi attack but also pointedly suggested Mitt Romney was politicizing the tragedy.
Fox News' Ed Henry contributed to this report.