President Obama faces off against Mitt Romney in their third and final presidential… (Michael Reynolds / IAFP/Getty…)
BOCA RATON, Fla. — You've heard the Republican critique of President Obama for “leading from behind.” After a debate performance in which the incumbent seemed on the offensive, the GOP spin was that Obama was attacking from behind.
“I think the president showed up with the idea of not debating America’s position in the world but defending his deteriorating position in the race,” Romney senior advisor Eric Fehrnstrom told reporters in the “spin room” moments after the conclusion of the third presidential debate Monday night at Lynn University. “He launched one attack after another. As [Romney] pointed out, attacking him is not an agenda.”
Democrats, not surprisingly, said the president’s performance showed him to be a strong and steady leader.
Since Obama's widely panned performance in the first debate, poll after poll has shown the presidential contest increasingly tight, both nationally and in key states where Obama had held a slight advantage.
Whether the president's more confident and aggressive posture since then — both at the second debate at Hofstra University in suburban New York and at Monday's meeting in South Florida — could boost his candidacy remains to be seen. The GOP position Monday was that Obama had resorted to the attack in a last-ditch effort to do so.
“The contrast that emerged tonight is a president that was very defensive because he didn’t have an agenda,” said another senior Romney aide, Kevin Madden. “He felt his strategy had to be to attack his opponent, and as a result, I think Gov. Romney gave people a greater sense of confidence on that commander-in-chief test.”
Democratic Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois said that Obama realized after the first debate that “he needed to be strong,” and that his performance that night “had a big impact on the campaign.”
“You saw both at Hofstra and again tonight a strong president,” Durbin said. “And when it comes to national security and foreign policy, that is absolutely the starting point.”
Otherwise, Democrats seemed content to simply echo the sharp barbs Obama uttered against Romney on Monday. The Obama campaign was quickly circulating press accounts declaring their candidate the winner.
“The American people saw a strong and steady leader laying out a clear vision of where he wants to take the country, and an unsteady Mitt Romney,” campaign manager Jim Messina said. Romney was “wrong on Iraq, wrong on Afghanistan” and continues be unable to explain his positions on issues, he said.