News Column

Obama, Romney Extend Presidential Debate

October 18, 2012

Aamer Madhani and Jackie Kucinich, USA TODAY

Presidential debates

President Obama and Mitt Romney returned to the campaign trail Wednesday, extending their rhetorical slugfest that began with Tuesday night's debate in New York to three hotly contested battleground states.

Obama traveled to Cornell College, a small liberal arts school in Linn County, Iowa, before flying to the campus of Ohio University to drum up enthusiasm among young voters.

Meanwhile, Romney zigzagged through Virginia, arguing to voters in Chesapeake and Leesburg that the president has failed to present his vision for the next four years. While in Virginia, he also held a "tele-town hall" meeting with voters in Florida.

"I think it's interesting that the president still doesn't have an agenda for a second term. Don't you think that it's time for him to finally put together a vision of what he'd do in the next four years if he were elected?" Romney said at a rally in Chesapeake.

Obama used his two rallies to repeat and expand on some of the criticism he made against Romney during Tuesday debate. He charged that Romney was offering the American people a "sketchy deal" with his plan to cut taxes while increasing military spending, and he blasted Romney for his opposition to extending a tax credit program for wind energy companies that is particularly popular here in Iowa.

"His tax plan doesn't add up; his jobs plan doesn't create jobs; his deficit reduction plan adds to the deficit," Obama said. "Everybody here has heard of the New Deal; you've heard of the fair deal; you've heard of the square deal. Mitt Romney is trying to sell you a sketchy deal."

The president also argued that his Republican rival would be bad for women and tweaked Romney for his reference during the debate to having "binders full of women" to recruit women into his administration during his time as governor of Massachusetts.

"I've got to tell you, we don't need to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented, talented driven young women," Obama quipped.

Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, pushed back against Obama's mocking, saying the former governor had been a champion of women during his tenure as governor.

Women are a key constituency, particularly in Virginia, and have been responsible for Romney's recent surge in several polls. A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll out this week showed that Romney has narrowed Obama's lead among women in swing states.

For his part, the president emphasized on Wednesday his record promoting fair pay for women. Obama and his surrogates charged that Romney would strip funding of Planned Parenthood and has dodged answering where he stands on a statute that makes it easier for women to sue employers for pay discrimination.

"Gov. Romney didn't want to talk much last night about how he wants to end funding for Planned Parenthood, how he supports legislation that would turn certain decisions about a woman's health care over to their employers," Obama said. "He didn't want to talk about it because he knows he can't sell it."

Romney peppered his speech with names of those who asked questions at the town hall debate, using their questions to reiterate his positions on jobs, immigration, education and energy. He called the president's response to a question about the role of the Energy Department in setting gas prices "the most classic of the non-answers of the night."

"I think it's pretty clear when it comes to his policies, and his answers and his agenda, he is pretty much running on fumes," Romney said.

The sharpened rhetoric grabbed voters' attention. Joel Rubin, 59, an undecided voter from Virginia Beach who attended Romney's Chesapeake rally, said he feared during Tuesday's debate that one of them was going to touch the other "and start a brawl right there."

Kucinich reported from Chesapeake, Va.



Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2012