The Morning After: Democrats Not Discouraged About Debate Results

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DENVER — (CNN)  The morning after a presidential debate that saw a forceful Mitt Romney attacking President Barack Obama’s economic record, top Democrats said the event wouldn’t sway the state of the presidential race.

“I think that Gov. Romney is certainly a skilled debater. And last night he was able to elevate his level of performance. But he did not change the fundamental dynamics of this race, nor did he change some of the policies that actually got us into the economic mess that we have,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat and top surrogate for Obama, said on CNN’s “Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien.”

“Today is a new day,” he said later. “Everybody wakes up, when we go back for the last 35, 36 days of this campaign.”

On Thursday, President Obama reacted to the debate criticism with humor.

“When I got onto the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney, but it couldn’t have been Mitt Romney because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising five trillion dollars in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. The fellow on stage last night said he didn’t know anything about that,” the President joked.

People booed when the President mentioned Mitt Romney’s policies on education and teachers. But President Obama instructed them, “Don’t boo. Vote.”

According to a CNN/ORC International survey conducted right after the debate, 67% of debate watchers questioned said that the Republican nominee won the faceoff, with one in four saying that President Barack Obama was victorious.

Jen Psaki, the president’s campaign press secretary, said those numbers wouldn’t wind up playing a major role in the outcome of November’s election.

“I don’t think the American people make a judgment on who they’re going to vote for by an instant poll coming out of a debate,” Psaki said on “Starting Point.” “They’re not looking for an attacker in chief, which is what Mitt Romney was last night. They’re looking for a commander in chief and the president’s calm, delivered performance and him laying out his policies and where he wanted to move the country forward.”

“When people are talking about it in Florida and Ohio and Iowa this morning, that’s what they’ll be focused on,” Psaki concluded.

O’Malley also claimed the instant reading from polls would not alter the edge Obama enjoyed in national and battleground state polling going into Wednesday’s event.

“I think that what you have to look at in the course of a campaign is not any one day or any one performance,” O’Malley said. “I’ve been in these debates, and always, it seems, that the challenger has an edge in that very first debate.”

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