DENVER -- President Barack Obama hit all the right notes during a campaign rally Thursday morning, offering a sharpened message and a rebuttal to Mitt Romney that he couldn't seem to find Wednesday night during his lackluster debate performance.
Whereas Obama appeared unfocused and unwilling to engage Romney or respond to his attacks, he took the stage before a crowd of a few thousand supporters on the edge of Sloan's Lake some 15 hours later ready to return to fire.
Describing his debate opponent as a “very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney”, Obama, himself a far more spirited fellow than he was Wednesday night, tried to characterize Romney's debate performance as at odds with many of his previously stated positions on tax cuts, education and outsourcing.
“It couldn’t have been the real Mitt Romney, because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country all year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts to the wealthy, but the fellow on stage last night did not know anything about that," Obama said. "The real Mitt Romney said we do not need any more teachers in the classroom, but the fellow on stage said he loves teachers, can’t get enough of them.”
Obama, who eschewed many of his well-worn attack lines on stage with Romney Wednesday night, went right back to them Thursday morning, reminding a significantly smaller audience -- some 58 million Americans watched the debate, while around 10,000 showed up on a frigid morning in northwest Denver -- about Romney's 47 percent comments.
"It's hard to be president for all Americans when you've written off half the country," said Obama, who also used another common campaign slogan, that "bin Laden is dead, and GM is alive."
Romney's campaign, which left Denver Thursday morning with a spring in its step, argued that Obama was unable to defend his record on the debate stage and made no effort to do so before supporters a day later.
“In full damage-control mode, President Obama today offered no defense of his record and no vision for the future," said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams. "Rather than a plan to fix our economy, President Obama simply offered more false attacks and renewed his call for job-killing tax hikes.
"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.”
While his campaign conceded that Romney may have won the debate on style points, Obama looked to portray many of his opponent's statements as falsehoods, a point already being underlined in a new Obama campaign television ad.
“If you want to be president you owe the American people the truth," Obama said.
Obama also mocked one of Romney's more memorable debate statements where the Republican candidate informed moderator Jim Lehrer, formerly of PBS, that he would cut funding for the network, even though he likes Big Bird.
“Thank goodness someone is getting tough on Big Bird,” Obama said. “We didn’t know that Big Bird was driving the federal deficit.”
“And Elmo!” someone shouted.
“Elmo too,” the president replied.
Following the speech, many in the crowd acknowledged the obvious difference in Obama's two performances during his 24 hours in Denver.
"I liked the message today better," said Christopher Smith. "Last night, he seemed tired, he seemed a little lacking energy somehow. This was a lot better, a lot more energetic. I tend to think Obama speaks better behind a podium anyway.
"[Romney] had a clear message and it seemed like Obama was afraid to put himself forward, like he didn't want to come off too aggressive."