DENVER (AP) — Buoyed by a powerful debate showing, Mitt Romney said yesterday he offers “prosperity that comes through freedom” to a country struggling to shed a weak economy. President Barack Obama accused the former Massachusetts governor of running from his own record in pursuit of political power.
Both men unleashed new attack ads in the battleground states in a race with little more than a month to run, Obama suggesting Romney couldn’t be trusted with the presidency, and the Republican accusing the president of backing a large tax increase on the middle class.
The debate reached 67.2 million viewers, an increase of 28 percent over the first debate in the 2008 presidential campaign. The measurement and information company Nielsen said yesterday that 11 networks provided live coverage of the debate.
Romney said in an interview with Fox News last night that had he been asked during their debate about his “47 percent” remarks that caused a stir when they cropped up last month, he would have acknowledged that he had been “just completely wrong.” It was a turnabout from his early defense of the remarks — he had called them “not elegantly stated” — in which he disparaged the nearly half of Americans who don’t pay federal income taxes. He had said they see themselves as victims and are unwilling to take responsibility for their lives.
“Well, clearly in a campaign, with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you’re going to say something that doesn’t come out right,” Romney told Fox News. “In this case, I said something that’s just completely wrong. And I absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about 100 percent and that’s been demonstrated throughout my life. And this whole campaign is about the 100 percent.”
Not even Democrats disputed that Romney was likely to benefit politically from the debate Wednesday night in which he aggressively challenged Obama’s stewardship of the economy and said his own plans would help pull the country out of a slow-growth rut. Still, there was no immediate indication that the race would expand beyond the nine battleground states where the rivals and their running mates spend nearly all of their campaign time and advertising dollars.