DENVER -- The journalists who covered last night's vice presidential debate in Kentucky got bottles of Wild Turkey bourbon in their gift bags.
Following the debate itself, many Republicans were characterizing Vice President Joe Biden as a wild turkey after his animated performance opposite a calm and cool Paul Ryan, overcompensation perhaps for the president's punchless effort in Denver last week.
Democrats, meanwhile, were elated over Biden's fire, his barrage of facts and a full 90 minutes of chortles and grins, just relieved to see part of the ticket make a compelling case and to fight back at a debate opponent.
But, for all the blabbering, the debate likely did little to change the race for the White House with 25 days to go, as attention turns to next Tuesday's presidential debate, round two between President Obama and a suddenly surging Mitt Romney.
More polls Friday confirmed an increasingly tight race nationally, and in several swing states, including Colorado.
Gallup's national tracking poll Friday had Romney leading Obama 49-47 percent; while a new Survey USA/Denver Post poll shows a statistical tie in Colorado.
The poll, released by the Post Friday, has Romney at 48 percent and Obama at 47 percent, the one-point difference well within the survey's margin of error.
And noted statistician Nate Silver rated Romney's odds of winning the election the highest they've been since last week's debate and concluded that the GOP's post-Denver bounce does not seem to be diminishing.
Romney's Libya attack escalates after Biden comment
Romney, stumping in Virginia and Ohio Friday, continued to hammer the Obama administration for its response to the terrorist attacks in Libya last month in which four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed.
The Republican nominee's rhetoric went up a notch in response to Biden's debate statement that the administration didn't know that Americans on the ground in Benghazi had requested security reinforcements.
"There were more questions that came out last night because the vice president directly contradicted the sworn testimony of State Department officials," Mr. Romney said at a rally in Richmond, Va., on Friday morning.
Last week, a State Department regional security officer and a Utah National Guard officer in charge of security in Libya both testified before a House committee this week that they sought more security officers but were rebuffed by the State Department. On Friday, the White House explained that such requests are handled by the State Department, not the White House.
"The vice president was speaking about himself, the president and the White House," said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, trying to put Biden's comment in a more favorable context. "He was not referring to the administration."
Romney, however, characterized Biden's response differently.
"He’s doubling down on denial," Romney said. "And we need to understand exactly what happened, as opposed to just having people brush this aside. When the vice president of the United States directly contradicts the testimony, sworn testimony, of State Department officials, American citizens have a right to know just what’s going on, and we’re going to find out."
The Republicans' sustained campaign attacks on the Obama administration over Libya, which initially seemed to backfire, are paying political dividends, as the president's once-formidable advantage on the issue of foreign policy is down to single digits.
Biden campaigns on Ryan's home turf
Biden, eager to rehash the debate during a campaign rally Friday in LaCrosse, Wisc. in Paul Ryan's home state, didn't mention Libya.
Instead, he spoke again about Romney's "47 percent" comments and continued to draw out the contrasts between himself and Ryan.
"You know, anyone who watched that debate can see we have a fundamentally different vision for the country, a fundamentally different value set," Biden said.
For Obama, it's back to 'the Bennet model'
Meanwhile, the Obama campaign has new ads hitting the airwaves in Colorado and other select swing states, including a spot focusing on Romney's pledge to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood.
"As you're making your decision, maybe you're wondering what to believe about Mitt Romney," a narrator says in a direct appeal to women, as the ad twice shows clips of Romney promising to "get rid of" Planned Parenthood.
"He'll cut it off. Cut us off," the female narrator alleges. "Women need to know the real Mitt Romney."
While the focus on women's health, following the so-called Bennet model of focusing on otherwise conservative Colorado women, isn't new, the ad appears to be necessary now because of Obama's flat debate performance and Romney's subsequent gains with women voters, according to a wide swath of swing state and national polls.
Clear eyes. Full hearts. Get lost.
And Romney's effort to show a softer side with an anecdote suffered another minor setback Friday.
Earlier this week, the mother of Navy SEAL who was killed and who Romney had begun to mention in an anecdote added to his normal stump speech, asked the candidate to stop telling her son's story.
On Friday, Peter Berg, the creator of the TV show "Friday Night Lights", asked Romney to stop using a line lifted from his series -- "Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can't lose." -- that the candidate had been quoting to punctuate the story about the slain Navy SEAL.
Your politics and campaign are clearly not aligned with the themes we portrayed in our series,” Berg wrote in a letter to Romney.
Berg says Romney's use of the phrase, a cultural marker to fans of the show, amounts to plagiarism and offered a stinging summation of the GOP candidate's record.
"The only relevant comparison I see between you and your campaign and 'Friday Night Lights' is in the character of Buddy Garrity -- who turned his back on American car manufacturers selling imported cars from Japan.
"Please come up with your own slogan."AlertMe