President Obama, Mitt Romney, and their surrogates were back on the road today, fanning out across battleground states as the campaigns hustled to magnify and manage perceptions about Tuesday night's bruising debate in New York.
Obama, who delivered to his base the kind of energetic and aggressive performance they had been clamoring for since Romney had the run of the candidates' first meeting, flew into Iowa for an afternoon rally before heading for the Buckeye state to speak with supporters at Ohio University in Athens. It was the president's 31st trip to Ohio since he took office.
On his first stop, just outside Cedar Rapids, Obama seized on Romney's now meme-ified claim that, in his quest to find female cabinet members in Massachusetts, he picked from "binders full of women" provided to him by outside organizations.
"I've got to tell you, we don't have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women," Obama said.
And like he did Tuesday night, the president called Romney's tax plan as a "sketchy deal" that would only benefit the wealthiest few Americans.
Vice President Joe Biden backed up his boss' zinger, describing Romney as "a little, how can I say it, sketchy?"
"Folks, these are the only guys I've ever heard, out of any guys I've ever met, who thought that not telling you now, but telling you after the election, constituted leadership," Biden said, pointing to questions about what tax deductions would be eliminated under the Romney-Ryan plan.
While Biden rallied supporters in swing state Colorado and Obama courted them in Iowa and Ohio, Romney spent the day in Virginia, another toss-up. The Republican led a campaign rally in Chesapeake before making the four-hour trip north to Leesburg.
Like Obama, the Republican echoed the night before, recalling a woman who asked during the town hall debate what he would do to "rectify" gender inequality in the workplace.
"This president has failed America's women," Romney declared, making reference to broad statistics he said show more women in economic distress. "They've suffered in terms of getting jobs, they've suffered in terms of falling into poverty."
His campaign also released a web video today titled "Cabinet Members – Humanity," which features three former aides, all female, testifying to Romney's dedication to equality in the workforce.
"He totally gets working women," one former staffer says in the clip, which plays above a caption stating: "Women who worked with Mitt Romney were struck by his humanity and his sensitivity. They understood just how important it is to work for someone that respects them and the work they do – both at home and in the workplace."
With less than three weeks now until Election Day, Obama, Romney, and their running mates are zeroing on the handful of states still in the balance. Their charge: Stir supporters whose motivation to vote might be wavering and get them to the polls.
"Both candidates decided they were going to rouse partisans," ABC News' George Stephanopoulos said moments after Obama and Romney left the ring in New York Tuesday night, "rouse supporters and not so much worry about uncommitted voters."
John Hudak, a governance studies fellow at the Brookings Institution, believes that more combative tone will translate into a bigger boost for the president than Romney.