By Patricia Zengerle –
(Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s backers scrambled to keep his edge in the presidential race on Thursday after rival Mitt Romney’s aggressive debate performance put his campaign on a more positive footing following weeks of setbacks.
Romney gave a strong performance and stayed on the offensive throughout the two men’s first head-to-head meeting in the campaign for the November 6 election. But with less than five weeks before Election Day, the Republican still faces a tough fight to overtake the Democrat.
Obama landed some punches on Romney’s tax plan, but appeared restrained and missed – or chose not to pursue – several opportunities to attack.
Romney’s confident, rigorous debating revived his flagging campaign and could help him cut into Obama’s slim but steady lead in opinion polls. But analysts said they still favored the president’s re-election chances.
“Nobody is going to switch sides on the basis of this debate,” said Samuel Popkin, a political science professor at the University of California at San Diego.
Obama campaign surrogates flooded the Thursday morning television talk shows, acknowledging Romney had scored what they called “style points.” But they accused Romney of repeated factual errors, such as insisting Obama would cut $716 billion from Medicare, and of changing positions on important issues.
“Again and again and again, he told a story to the American people that is completely in contrast with what he said before and unfounded in fact. And that’s going to catch up with him,” senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“I give him credit for a strong performance. I give him an ‘F’ for being honest with the American people,” Axelrod said.