Two days after a widely praised presidential debate performance credited with getting his campaign back on track, Mitt Romney still was basking in the glow — and indulging in a little bit of gloating. While getting ready for the next one.
At a rally in St. Petersburg, Florida, this evening, Romney praised debate moderator Jim Lehrer, who has come under some criticism for failing to challenge the candidates enough during the 90-minute session in Denver on Wednesday night, saying he gave the two candidates a chance to discuss their positions.
“I enjoyed that debate a couple of nights ago — that was a great experience,” Romney told about 5,000 people at a pier festooned with a giant American flag. “I think that Jim Lehrer did an excellent job in raising issues and having the candidates talk about our views on issues, rather than just the kind of `gotcha’ thing that sometimes happens with media interviews.”
His wife Ann, too, compared the format of the first debate favorably with the media coverage her husband usually gets.
“I was so thrilled at the debate, for people to see my husband, unfiltered, without any negative ads, without any media trying to interpret what he says and what he feels in his heart,” she said to cheers.
Romney also poked fun at President Barack Obama’s performance, which the president’s own campaign and Democratic strategists have conceded fell flat.
Noting that there was talk during the debate of both candidates’ jobs programs, Romney said of Obama: “Did you hear what he had to say? I didn’t either.”
And as some Democratic-aligned blogs circulated stories accusing Romney of having violated debate rules and brought a cheat-sheet of notes to the podium with him, the Republican said he didn’t need such crutches to drive home his message.
“I’ve got five things — you’ve heard me talk about them,” Romney said of his job-creation proposal. “I don’t have to look at notes to know what they are, by the way. I know what they are.”
The Republican nominee already has started working on the next debate, his face-off with Obama scheduled Oct. 16. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, Romney’s debate practice sparring partner, showed up at the candidate’s hotel in Orlando tonight, on the eve of a weekend campaign tour of the Sunshine State.