It turns out that President Obama left his shine back at the White House on purpose.
In response to a flurry of criticisms about the president's uninspired debate performance Wednesday night, senior campaign adviser David Axelrod said that Obama had made a choice to simply answer the questions he was asked and avoid a situation in which he and Mitt Romney would be "insulting each other" all night, ergo no mention of the "47 percent," Bain Capital and other tried-and-true attacks. Still, Axelrod appeared to understand that the Mr. Nice Guy approach may not have been the wisest strategy and said that some adjustments will need to be made for rounds two and three.
In a Thursday morning conference call with reporters, Axelrod said that the campaign would take "a hard look" at the president's performance, likening the debates to a playoff series, and added that it also would "make some judgments about where to draw the lines in these debates and how to use our time.”
Axelrod wasted no time offering a critique of Romney's performance, which he said might win the Republican an Oscar but not the presidency.
"Gov. Romney came to give a performance and he gave a good performance and we will give him credit for that. The problem with it is that none of it was rooted in fact," he said, describing the Republican nominee as "a serial evader" and an "artful dodger.”
Policy adviser James Kvaal provided reporters with a litany of issues on which the campaign believes Romney distorted his policy agenda, rebuttals that would have served the president well if he'd offered them during the actual debate. He and Axelrod pledged that the campaign would spend the coming weeks doing what they said would be setting the record straight.
The Obama that supporters wished they'd seen on stage turned up on the campaign trail Thursday, using a bit of humor that seemed to be a bit of commentary on both candidates' performances.
"When I got on stage, I met this very spirited fellow, who claimed to be Mitt Romney. It couldn’t have been Mitt Romney," he said at an afternoon rally in Denver. "The real Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. The fellow on stage last night said he didn’t know anything about that. He does not want to be held accountable for the real Mitt Romney's decisions."
According to Axelrod, the debate was Obama's "first chance to see the Romney routine up close" and he's "very eager" for the next debate.
Likewise, Democrats and others, who were, frankly, stunned by Obama Wednesday night, are eager to see the real Barack Obama, not someone who simply claims that's who he is.
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(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)