DENVER - Under fire from critics on the left and right for his performance at the first presidential debate, President Obama arrived here for a chilly morning-after rally armed with rejoinders to arguments made by Republican rival Mitt Romney - rejoinders which were not delivered in the heat of debate last night.
Obama told the crowd of 12,000 huddled along the shoreline at Sloan's Lake Park that the man he faced was a "very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney," but who espoused positions in conflict with what "the real Mitt Romney" has been touting on the campaign trail.
He ticked through the issues and contrasts that he said reflected a factual dishonesty on the part of the Republican nominee.
"It couldn't have been Mitt Romney because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts to favor the wealthy. The fellow on the stage last night said he didn't know about that," he said. "The real Mitt Romney said we don't need any more teachers in our classrooms. But the fellow onstage last night, he loves teachers, can't get enough of them."
"The Mitt Romney we all know invested in companies that were called pioneers of outsourcing jobs to other countries. But the guy onstage last night, he said that he doesn't even know that there are such laws that encourage outsourcing," he continued. "He said that if it's true, he must need a new accountant."
"Now we know for sure it was not the real Mitt Romney, because he seems to be doing just fine with his current accountant," Obama quipped. In the tangle Wednesday over tax incentives for outsourcing, Obama did not have a quick come-back for Romney's reference to his accountant.
Turning to the deficit, Obama presented a day-after rebuttal to Romney's claims about public television and the colorful children's character Big Bird as a place to reap deficit savings.
"When he was asked what he'd actually do to cut the deficit and reduce spending, he said he'd eliminate funding for public television," Obama said with a mocking tone. "That was his answer. I mean, thank goodness somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird. It's about time.
"We didn't know that Big Bird was driving the federal deficit," he joked. "But that's what we heard last night. How about that?"
"Governor Romney may dance around his positions. But if you want to be president, you owe the American people the truth," Obama concluded.
His campaign aides acknowledged today that they had made a deliberate decision to not have the president engage in "serial fact checking" of Romney's statements from the stage, choosing instead to focus largely on the questions that were asked. Aides said today they were going to "take a hard look" at that approach and "make some judgments" about how to proceed.
Meanwhile many of the president's supporters were also surprised that during the debate he did not make mention of Romney's remarks on that secret video tape, disparaging 47 percent of Americans as government-dependent, self-perceived "victims." Obama had spent weeks hammering his rival for his words, and resumed the attack here today.
"From the day we began this campaign, I always said real change takes time. It takes more than one term. It takes more even than one president or one party. You certainly can't do it if you've got a president who writes off half the nation before he even takes office," he said alluding to Romney's remarks.
Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said Obama appeared to be in "full damage-control mode."
"President Obama today offered no defense of his record and no vision for the future. Rather than a plan to fix our economy, President Obama simply offered more false attacks and renewed his call for job-killing tax hikes," he said in a statement. "Last night, Mitt Romney demonstrated why he should be President, laying out the clear choice in this election. We can't afford four more years of the last four years. We need a real recovery - and Mitt Romney has a real plan to deliver it."