LAKEWOOD, COLORADO – In his first public appearance after what was widely viewed as a lackluster debate performance against his Republican challenger, President Barack Obama was cheered Thursday at a morning rally by thousands of supporters, telling them he was shocked to meet a “guy who was playing Mitt Romney” on stage.
“When I got onto the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney,” he said.
“The real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year, promising $5 trillion in tax cuts to favor the wealthy,” he said. But on Wednesday, “he said, I don’t know anything about that,” Obama said. “The real Mitt Romney said we don’t need anymore teachers in our classrooms….but last night, he can’t get enough of them.”
Obama, speaking to a crowd of 10,000 at Sloan’s Lake here, addressed Wednesday’s debate at the University of Denver in a far more spirited attack on Romney than he leveled at the debate, repeatedly characterizing Romney’s performance as that of a candidate attempting to morph his political profile and step away from his former positions on issues such as taxes and education while refusing to provide details on billions of dollars he’d cut in programs.
“Thank goodness somebody is getting tough on Big Bird. We didn’t know Big Bird was driving the federal deficit but that’s what we heard last night,” Obama said, referring to Romney’s statement that he would cut funding for the public television, which is home of “Sesame Street.”
“I had to spend a lot of time last night trying to pin him down,” he said, noting that on the issue of tax breaks for corporations that outsource jobs, Romney “said he doesn’t even know there are such laws.”
“It will be interesting to see what the guy who was playing Mitt Romney yesterday” will do on foreign policy, the subject of the last debate later this month in Florida, he said.
Thousands braved the cold, lining up at dawn around Sloan’s Lake in suburban Lakewood for the rally and appeared undeterred after most pundits panned Obama’s performance as lackluster and called Wednesday’s debate in favor of Romney. The GOP candidate delivered a much-needed bravura performance, appearing energetic and aggressive in contrast to Obama’s low-key, professorial approach.
Speakers and entertainers downplayed the debate reviews and put on a brave face, and several of them reprised the theme that Romney offered a new version of himself in an attempt to fool voters.
“Do you believe the new Mitt Romney?” asked former U.S. Transportation Secretary Federico Pena, using a refrain that pumped up the crowd, which shouted “No!” to his repeated observations about Romney’s debate promises to protect the middle class, education, and social programs. He lauded the president as telling “the truth” at the rally, as the crowd cheered.
“The choice couldn’t be more clear…that’s what you saw last night,” said Colorado U.S. Senator Mark Udall. “We’ve got 33 days left…we ignore the pundits,” Udall said. “What do they know?”
The upbeat crowd chanted “Fired up! Ready to Go!” and lustily sang along in the chill morning air with performer Will.I.Am, whose message came in songs like “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
“We have to go out and vote and inspire the ones who don’t believe to keep on believing,” he told them.
Pat Clark, 70, a retired accountant from Denver, was among the Obama supporters who expressed disappointment in the debate, its moderator –and the candidate, who she said should have gone on attack more.
“Jim Lehrer lost control,” she said, allowing Romney to take over and drive the issues.
But like many of the rallly, Clark said the debate didn’t change her mind — or her enthusiasm for Obama. ‘”He’ll come back,” she said.
Lynn Norrie, 70, a Denver nurse therapist, also said she was disappointed that the debate on domestic issues never included a question on immigration or women’s issues, like reproductive rights. “Cutting funding for Planned Parenthood? That’s the sharpest difference between them..it’s crystal clear,” she said.
Obama’s Denver rally marks the start of a new campaign swing and fundraising drive that will take him to California this week. He will be in San Francisco Monday for a two fundraisers, including one at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium expecrted to drawn big crowds.