Romney: Debate let voters "listen to substance"

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney campaigns with vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan in Fishersville, Va., Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

FISHERSVILLE, Va. A re-energized Mitt Romney joined forces with Paul Ryan in the battleground state of Virginia on Thursday evening and said the previous night's debate enabled voters to "listen to substance," even as the Obama campaign began aggressively questioning the details of several of Romney's assertions.

"People got the chance ... to cut through all the attacks and counterattacks and all of the theatrics associated with a campaign, and instead they were able to listen to substance," Romney said as the crowd of more than 5,000 in this rural town west of Charlottesville roared its approval.

Calling the event "an important night for the country, " he praised the debate's moderator, PBS's Jim Lehrer, for asking "questions of substance" and said he appreciated the opportunity to question Obama on the unemployment level, the raising numbers of people in poverty and on food stamps, and the problems facing the middle class.

"And I think as a result of those answers. the American people recognize that he and I stand for something very different," Romney said. "I'm going to help the American people get good jobs and a bright future."

As he introduced Romney, Ryan told the crowd, "Last night we saw a clear picture, we saw a clear choice. Last night, America got to see the man I know -- a leader."

Both Romney and Ryan took Vice President Biden to task for saying during a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa that he agreed with the Republicans' assertion that he and Obama want to raise taxes by a trillion dollars through letting tax cuts lapse for the wealthiest Americans.

"Guess what? Yes, we do, in one regard," Biden said. "We want to let that trillion-dollar tax cut expire so the middle class doesn't have to bear the burden of all that money going to the super wealthy. That's not a tax raise, that's called fairness where I come from."

Ryan prompted chuckles from the thousands of people in the audience by mocking Biden by saying he "asked himself a question" and then responded to himself confirming that he will raise taxes.

"Well, Virginia, no we don't!" he said as some members of the audience echoed him, chanting, "No we don't!"

Romney said Biden had "blurted out the truth" and that Obama's plan will kill jobs and force families to pay $4,000 more in taxes, citing a study from the conservative American Enterprise Institute that Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith called "a partisan distortion of a study that has nothing to do with the president's proposals."

The Obama campaign tried to hammer home a theme of dishonestly from the GOP ticket that it has been pushing since the Wednesday night debate. Obama, in an appearance in Denver, and his campaign are seeking to rebrand the debate -- through a hard-hitting TV ad and other means -- not as a lackluster performance by the Democratic incumbent but as Romney's distortion of what they said is his real agenda.

"After Mitt Romney's blatant dishonesty about his policies last night, it's no surprise that he and Paul Ryan can do nothing but blindly attack an honest, consistent position when they see it," said spokesman Danny Kanner.

"The vice president - like the overwhelming majority of the American people - believes we should ask the wealthiest to pay their fair share like they did under President Clinton so that we can pay down our deficit and make the investments in education, energy, and innovation that will grow our economy. Unfortunately for Romney and Ryan, who would prefer to give additional tax cuts to the wealthiest by raising taxes on the middle class and slashing critical investments, those are the facts - and they're on the wrong side of them."

The rally kicked off with a short concert by country music star Trace Adkins and a formal endorsement from the National Rifle Association. NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre warned that the Supreme Court would force gun owners to "kiss our constitutional right to own a firearm in the United States goodbye."

Ryan played up his credentials as a hunter by pointing out his blaze-orange-and-camouflage iPhone cover.

"It reminds me that after we elect Mitt Romney president, I can take my daughter deer hunting," he said.

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    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.