President Obama told a crowd in Denver on Thursday that he barely recognized the “spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney” at the debate the night before.
“It could not have been Mitt Romney because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy,” Obama said. “The fellow on stage last night said he didn’t know anything about that.”
He continued with the riff: “The real Mitt Romney said we don’t need any more teachers in our classrooms … but the fellow on stage last night, he loves teachers, can’t get enough of them. The Mitt Romney we all know invested in companies that were called pioneers of outsourcing jobs to other countries, but the guy onstage last night, he said that he does not even know that there are such laws that encourage outsourcing.”
The speech is part of a broader effort by the campaign to attack Romney for some of his bolder debate claims, like new assurances he’d preserve education spending while cutting the deficit, a pledge to cover people with pre-existing conditions (which the campaign immediately walked back), and a promise not to cut taxes for the rich that is contradicted by independent studies of his proposals.
“The man onstage last night does not want to be held accountable for the real Mitt Romney’s decisions and what he has been saying for the last year,” Obama said.
Obama, who came under heavy criticism from supporters for failing to effectively push back against Romney’s attacks in the debate, offered up plenty of spirited comebacks a day later. He mocked Romney in particular for promising trillions of dollars in spending cuts while naming only extremely modest subsidies to PBS as a specific item he’d cut.
“Thank goodness somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird. It is about time,” Obama said. “We did not know that Big Bird was driving the federal deficit, but that is what we heard last night. How about that? Elmo, too?”
Update: Romney spokesman Ryan Williams responded to Obama’s speech in a statement:
“In full damage-control mode, President Obama today offered no defense of his record and no vision for the future. Rather than a plan to fix our economy, President Obama simply offered more false attacks and renewed his call for job-killing tax hikes. Last night, Mitt Romney demonstrated why he should be President, laying out the clear choice in this election. We can’t afford four more years of the last four years. We need a real recovery - and Mitt Romney has a real plan to deliver it.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.