Aides to President Obama said on Sunday that Obama was disappointed by his own performance at last week’s debate with Republican challenger Mitt Romney in Denver.
“I think the president understood that he hadn’t performed up to his own expectations pretty quickly after he got off the stage that night,” Robert Gibbs, an Obama campaign adviser, said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“The president is his harshest critic,” David Axelrod, another adviser, added on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And without getting into detail, I think you can assume that he has reviewed the tape, and it will inform how he handles these subsequent debates.”
The advisers were grilled about some specific criticisms of the president: that he appeared unprepared, spent too much time looking down at notes, and didn’t use some of his best weapons.
Axelrod said Obama didn’t mention Romney’s now-infamous remarks about the roughly 47 percent of Americans who do not pay federal income taxes because he “didn’t see the appropriate opportunity.”
“I mean, I think the president was earnestly trying to answer questions that were asked on the topics that were being discussed,” Axelrod said. “And he didn’t find the opportunity to raise it.”
Axelrod insisted the president did “plenty of homework” before the debate and said he is “happy to take whatever responsibility people want to assign to me” for Obama’s debate showing.
On looking down, Axelrod said “the president was taking notes on what was being said because he wanted to make sure that he was responsive.”
Gibbs, who also appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” offered backhanded compliments to Romney. He said the Republican nominee “had a masterful theatrical performance” and “did everything but learn tap dance” but also said the “underpinnings and foundations of that performance were fundamentally dishonest.”
“We met a new Mitt Romney,” Gibbs told NBC, citing Romney’s decision to stress promises that his tax plan will not hurt the middle class or add to the federal deficit. In other settings, Romney has emphasized his proposal to cut income tax rates, even for the wealthiest Americans.
“Now that Barack Obama has had the opportunity to meet both Mitt Romneys, I don’t doubt that he’ll make some adjustments,” he added on ABC. “I know he’s looking forward to the next debate.”Callum Borchers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.