October 4th, 2012
12:12 AM ET
10 years ago

From the spin room...

(CNN) – Shortly after the candidates stepped off of the debate stage, their surrogates, spokespeople, and supporters began to spin.

Mitt Romney had a good night, and their representatives arrived first.

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The Obama campaign a few minutes later arrived and acknowledged Romney's good performance, but they said it was not good enough. The Romney campaign said their candidate offered a contrast between his platform and that of the incumbent.

David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the Obama campaign, said in the spin room, it "wouldn't shock me if he'd (Romney) have some kind of a bounce" coming out of the debate.

But he was quick to say that Obama is doing well in battleground states, a message echoed by other Obama supporters around the spin room.

"I think the only one more frustrated than Barack Obama tonight is David Axelrod," Sen. Marco Rubio, a Romney surrogate, said after Axelrod was interviewed on CNN. "I think it's pretty clear that Barack Obama was incredibly uncomfortable tonight talking about things like taxes, the budget, jobs - happen to be the most important things in America.

"And there's a reason he's uncomfortable," Rubio continued. "For one, he doesn't understand the American free enterprise system."

Sen. Rob Portman, who played the role of Obama in debate rehearsals for Romney, said the GOP candidate had a "terrific night."

"He did exactly what he had to do for the undecided voter in Ohio or around the country," Portman, of Ohio, said. "They were looking for two things: One, a discussion of the last four years and why we can't afford it for the next four, I thought he explained that well. Most importantly, he talked about his own policies and he was able to set the record straight on some of the misleading ads the Obama campaign has put out there about his tax plan about his budget plan, about his health care ideas and so on."

Obama's deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said Romney "scores points on style."

"Mitt Romney needed to come in here tonight, not just to win this debate, which challengers normally do, let's face it," she said. "He needed to change the entire dynamic of this race. He didn't. He didn't do that because he doubled down on the same policies that have dogged him for the last 18 months."

As far as why Obama did not raise Romney's 47% comment - made at a fundraiser in May and revealed recently when secretly-recorded video was posted online - Obama campaign senior adviser David Plouffe said the "mission tonight was not for zingers."

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina told reporters that the president's Medicare argument was one of the highlights of the debate. Romney did not successfully defend his plan to "voucherize" the program, Messina said, which is a liability for Romney in swing states such as Ohio and Florida. He said it will be difficult for Romney to "defend that across the battleground."

In a paper statement he issued later, he said: "The President spoke directly to voters tonight about his vision for an economy that grows from the middle out, while Mitt Romney spent the night on the defensive, doubled down on the same bad ideas that crashed the economy, and got testy when he was pushed on specifics. Romney confirmed that he opposes a single dollar in new revenue from the wealthiest to reduce the deficit and continued to hide the details about how he'd accomplish his plans because he knows they don't add up and are bad for the middle-class. He was unable and unwilling to explain the math behind his $5 trillion tax cut favoring the wealthy, refused to say what rules he'd put in place to protect consumers after repealing Wall Street reform, and didn't offer a single idea to protect families from insurance company abuses after repealing Obamacare. Tonight the American people saw the clear contrast between where the two candidates will take the country in the next four years."

GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan also released a statement after the debate, saying, "Americans deserve a clear choice about what kind of future we're going to have, and Governor Romney provided that contrast tonight. Mitt won this debate by effectively articulating his positive vision for a better America and the specific solutions needed to achieve it. The President, meanwhile, offered only more of the same failed ideas that have left those in the middle class – as Joe Biden put it – 'buried.' As we continue to sharpen the focus on the big choice in this election, Americans will see that we cannot afford four more years like the last. We need a real recovery, and Mitt Romney can get the job done."

Filed under: 2012 • Marco Rubio • Mitt Romney • President Obama • Rob Portman
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Name sue russell

    Although Romney may hsve won the debate (i personally think a tie), Romney can't get away from the fact that deep down he has no idea whst it's like to be in the middle class. He would care of those who already do well and the rest of the population will be expected to be gratefil for having a job at all even thouhh it doesn't pay that great. That's the Republican way-continue to shrink the middle class so that those with money and power have total control.

    October 4, 2012 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  2. Wolfgal

    The debaters are given 2 minutes but naturally they go over. Is there anyway you could say give them 2 minutes with an extra 30 seconds and then shut off their microphone? This would put less stress on the moderator who tries to keep it within the 2 minutes. Also, when you run stats on the number of minutes a person spoke on a subject, use a percentage of their overall time because the person who waffles on longer will appear to have spent more time on the topic but as a percentage it may actually be the same. I don't know if they know in advance what they will need to talk about, but if they do, they could deliberately waffle on knowing that there won't be time to cover a particular topic.

    October 4, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  3. Bill Warren

    While I admire CNN's acknowledging Romney as the clear winner of the first debate, it reverted to its pro-Obama sentiments when it "inadvertently" lost its connection during a post-debate interview with Marko Rubio – when he was making one too many good jabs at the President. I expect we will see CNN's "fact checkers" come in with many supposedly misstated facts by Mr. Romney, as well as its support for other dirty tricks from the Obama campaign in the weeks ahead. It's a shame we can't have more objective journalism. But anyway congrats on reporting Romney the winner tonite.

    October 4, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  4. Wolfgal

    Cutter is useless. They should promote her so she can do more damage.

    October 4, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  5. Gregory Skiff

    How about you mention how CNN pulled the video/audio feed on Marco Rubio midsentence when he was accurately describing the debate in favor of Romney?! Most corrut thing I've ever seen on a major news outlet in my life!

    October 4, 2012 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  6. james yaxley

    If the people followed the debate properly unlike your team who talked about everything but what the debate was about. let me remind you it was about running the country for the next four years then romney lost by a big margin. obama treated the tv audience like adults not dumb schoolkids. i feel romney is a very right wing politician with no regard for any class of people than his own. your team did not watch or listen correctly and your undecided are not true undecided they come in with an idea who they will vote for therfore this part of your program is a waste of time and the result false. if your supposedly political experts where true to the debate they would realise never during the debate promised or declared

    October 4, 2012 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  7. Larry

    I for one will not cast aside 6mos of campaign speeches for one night of rhetoric

    October 4, 2012 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  8. Dominique

    Why were there four Mitt Romney supporters and one President Obama supporter on CNN....I had to flip the channel to make sure it wasnt Fox...I was counting on CNN to be objective and it was the Republican convention part 2...Lol and Im a republican...

    October 4, 2012 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  9. Borderless

    Stephanie Cutter had absolutely the worst job of the night. I felt bad for her. How do you put a positive spin on that performance. Here's the thing. Obama has some very good speech writers and when he has a written statement or a teleprompter he delivers their words very eloquently. That, and a painfully biased press, helped him get elected in 08. What we saw tonight was raw Obama. That's what we elected in 08 and that's why there has been no progress in 4 years. And don't try to say that he was too busy being president to prepare. Standing before his critics and defending his position, leading, influencing...that is his job as president. Get it yet?

    October 4, 2012 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  10. Anonymous

    So, 67% of Americans aren't concerned that Mitt Romney lied and grovelled his way to winning the debate? Apparently this election has never been about:

    September 11, 2001
    Osama Bin Laden
    Budget Deficits
    Jobs and Employment
    Women's Rights
    Congressional Obstruction

    This election has been about a man willing to say and do anything to win the White House, and an America willing to be lied to without once looking at the quality or character of Mitt Romney. Bit difficult to debate a man who has absolutely no qualms about changing his position as often as Mitt Romney changes his positions.

    Romney pulled a Palin tonight. He's been pulling a Palin on the media for the past year ... laughing at ALL OF US ... one day at a time.

    October 4, 2012 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  11. Sherrod

    Mitt can get the job done!!!
    At what cost!!!!
    Seniors .... Listen very carefully!!!! This man will have you broke and back to work!!!
    The middle class will pay for everything!!!!!
    He is only concerned with rich Americans and how they can keep their money. This man cares nothing about the poor and working class. Obama came into a White House that was a hot mess!!!! All that Bush did!!!! Cheated to get elected.... Lied and sent these men and women to a war. Obama tries to change things but congress won't agree on nothing......they won't work with him!!!! So you blame Obama for mess he is trying to clean up from 8 yrs ago.
    All I am saying is think people...... Think before you vote. America is hardworking. Obama works for America..... ALL of America ..... Not just the rich.
    Romney is not your answer.... He will be the result of your nightmares!!!!

    October 4, 2012 02:22 am at 2:22 am |
  12. kaelinda

    Obama seemed to listen intently to whatever Romney said. Romney seemed to smirk at Obama, to run over Jim Lehrer, to make a shambles of the debate format. Romney repeatedly contradicted himself. But what amazed me was that he said he has five boys so he's used to people repeatedly saying things that are false in the hope that he'll believe it. Are all five of his boys liars, then? Is he used to them lying to him? Is that what he meant to say? Romney was aggressive and unpleasant to listen to because he spoke so fast. Obama was passive and seemed to carefully consider each word he spoke. Romney seemed to be reciting from scripts, while Obama seemd to be speaking extemporaneously.
    The only 'zinger' in the debate came from Obama. He said Romney has been saying for 18 months that he would lower the tax rate by 20% for everyone – and that is a $5 trillion tax cut. And now, five weeks from the election, Romney is saying 'nevermind.'

    October 4, 2012 02:26 am at 2:26 am |
  13. Adrian

    Romney revealed his true talent – flim flam.

    October 4, 2012 02:53 am at 2:53 am |
  14. quberth

    Obama is real Romney is a false man

    October 4, 2012 02:53 am at 2:53 am |
  15. Chick-a-dee

    The DNC made it impossible to be enthusiastic about the platform but compared to Romney & Ryan anyone looks like a better choice. Considering what an economic mess he was handed, the president did a fine job keeping us from disaster without legislative support. Now we need to put a blue house & a blue senate in place with the president so work can get accomplished in DC.

    October 4, 2012 03:03 am at 3:03 am |
  16. luke,az

    Gov Romney looked panicky. As always he brought his lies with him. President Obama was substantive and in control. I would not want Gov. Romney anywhere near the red button.

    October 4, 2012 03:16 am at 3:16 am |
  17. Mike

    Republicans are genius at strategy. Screw the economy up in such a colossal way (yes, we came inches away from a major economic depression) that you hand it to the next guy who couldn't possibly do more than stabilize the situation within four years, and then take back the office on the false premise that the other guy did a bad job.

    October 4, 2012 03:21 am at 3:21 am |
  18. tina

    Still have no idea what he plans to do. How could he have won?

    October 4, 2012 03:26 am at 3:26 am |
  19. rick sorento

    I hope the american public can not be fooled by one debate.The people must remember it was the republicans that put us here, it took Roosevelt many years and a war to get us out of the depression.Romney is a person that is not going to help the middle class,if you realy lisend he said things about medacare that would actually eventally take away your rights to medicare.The statement he made about not caring about the 47% of the people of this nation was no mistake.The man you seen tonight was no better than PT Barrnum,he pulled the wool over your eyes and you all fell for it, undecided voters better get ready to pay more taxes and by the way up here in massachusetts his health care that he put in place is killing us ,with higher dedutables on everything across the board, so if you were fooled tonight I would advise that you take the time and research what this man stands for .Baine Capital made him millions he put people out of work and sent the jobs outside of the USA. creating unemployment,let the lies fly.

    October 4, 2012 03:40 am at 3:40 am |
  20. rick sorento

    I believe the media should stop with all these polls, they are decieving the public.I know its your job but do you care about this country, or are you all 1% ers.I think you should report the news you can talk politics but please no more polls from any media it is all scewed.

    October 4, 2012 03:46 am at 3:46 am |
  21. Dustin

    the problem is that media has portrayed Mitt Romney as this incompetent twit, and he really is not one. So tonight liberals got their first look at what Mitt can do and it caught them off guard because it did not fit the image they had built up in their minds as a cold uncaring out of touch robot. Mitt is a Moderate Conservative. He did what he needed to do to become the parties nominee, and now he is showing his true colors, same guy he was when he got elected in Massachusetts. That's the nice thing, even if he wins liberal wont need to worry because he really is a moderate.

    October 4, 2012 03:55 am at 3:55 am |
  22. Barbara Jane Sowak

    Mr. Obama, the grand orator appeared off his game tonight. My feeling was that he was nervous, apprehesive then as the debate proceeded, he did not appear to want to be there. He even appeared complacent, as though he were thinking "que sera sera" regarding winning another 4 years...or not. While the Democratic debate plan was apparently not to wage war by attacking, I certainly felt Mr. Obama let Mr. Romney run the show. I'd say Mr. Obama basicaly handed the debate over. Mr. Romney delivered through smoke and mirrors and some academy award worthy acting. That said, as debates go, Mr. Romney was not memorable, it was Mr. Obama who was so bad. My feeling is that Americans who are naive vis a vis politics and in particular, do not comprehend the issues at hand, may now focus more on Romney, only because of this debate. But Americans who are better educated regarding the political process, will not base their voting decision on this debate, or even necessarily on all debates. They wll take stock of which candidate can be trusted for the next four years. Ultimately, debates are a combination of acting skils, oratory and yes, some good old fashioned B.S.. I'd say Mr. Romney delivered on all counts, but were I an American citizen, I'd still not trust his intentions, nor his siincerity regarding the lower, and middle class citizens. While the GOP can put a different spin on the" ROmney. revealed" tape where he shmooizes with his very wealthy buddies , dissing on what government's job is NOT to do and on the unfortunate 47 percent, etc.e tc.... I'd argue THAT is the real Romney, not the well prepped and slick indiividual observed in this debate. In particular, I found Mr. Romneys opening statements worhty of a soap opera performance, whereas Mr. Obama was either on sleeping meds, or worried about the 20th anniversary gift he forgot to buy Michelle. Many have suggested Mr. Obama's weakesses include that he is simply too nice, and that translates to procrastinating. I concur he is nice, a gent, but even nice fellows can assert themselves when needed and in the firsst presidential debate, Mr. Obama failed to do just that, he basically gave the debate away.

    October 4, 2012 04:20 am at 4:20 am |
  23. Marry

    One has to admit – Mitt did very well on the surface and with a quick look – he really won the evening!
    The President was not sharp on his toes – he did not explain what is wrong with the GOP plans for you and me! And there is a LOT wrong with it! He did not frame it in a catchy phrase.
    The work of the GOP – Party of “NO” – is much more of a hindrance for “us” than Romney will have you believe. The GOP stood their ground over the last 4 years – openings for them, nothing for you even after you served your country in the military!
    In detail Romney just does not hold up and it is what it is – his talk is cheap and reminds of the Tea party that fooled the people in 2010, promising about JOBS, JOBS, JOBS, and delivered nothing but abortion bills and a filibuster Senate! The ghosts of the past (Bush) administration are greeting us!
    Don’t be fooled by “let’s get some good sound bites” and “well what I really meant to say more elegantly” Mitt Romney! Let’s go forward – with President Obama!

    October 4, 2012 04:41 am at 4:41 am |
  24. steve

    is it just me or did Stephanie cutter look she was about to have a panic attack when discussing Obama's performance with Jessica Yellin? It looks like the Obama campaign is in a state of shock from the president to his campaign officials.
    The president is likable but came off very green and very amateurish tonight, like he just stepped onto the national spotlight from being a community organizer. My theory is that any democratic candidate would have one the election back in 2008 because people hated Bush and Palin, which is understandable. But when having to defend himself, the president was clearly outmatched

    October 4, 2012 05:23 am at 5:23 am |
  25. henry

    Granted Romney did win in some parts for content. However Romney lost when it came to healthcare/medicare.Romney still believes in vouchers for seniors. Many economist have said it would be a bad idea to do so. Romney also lost on social security. He wants to privateize social What happened to the stock market in 2008?

    October 4, 2012 05:25 am at 5:25 am |
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