* Vice presidential candidates tout victory on morning shows
* Candidates head to swing states, target undecided voters
By Deborah Charles and Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON, Oct 17 Fresh off a feisty debate
that re-energized Barack Obama's bid for a second term, the
Democratic president and Republican rival Mitt Romney headed
back on the campaign trail on Wednesday to start their final
appeals to undecided voters.
With 20 days to go until the Nov. 6 election, the
candidates' vice presidential running mates blanketed the
morning television talk shows to claim victory in the second
U.S. presidential debate on Tuesday evening.
Romney's partner, U.S. Representative Paul Ryan, said Obama
failed to lay out a convincing plan for economic recovery.
"The president ... couldn't justify his record on deficits
and job creation. And what Mitt Romney offered was a very
specific plan on how to get the country growing and creating
jobs again," Ryan said on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Vice President Joe Biden, whose aggressive strategy in his
own debate with Ryan last week set the tone for Tuesday's
Obama-Romney matchup, said the president "had a great debate."
Romney, however, remained woefully short on details,
especially about his pledge to lower taxes for the middle class
while not adding to the federal budget deficit, he said.
"Even after three debates ... there is still not a single
specific in the Romney $5 trillion tax plan. Everything is
sketchy," Biden said on NBC's "Today" show. "There's no direct
answers to any questions, and I think it's becoming clearer and
clearer to the American people that there's a fair amount of
rhetoric but not much substance."
Obama made up for a much-criticized listless showing in the
first presidential debate two weeks ago, attacking his
millionaire opponent over economic proposals he said would
bolster the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.
Greg Valliere, political strategist at Potomac Research
Group, said Obama scored points while Romney missed some
"Barack Obama, trailing by 4 points in yesterday's Gallup
poll of likely voters, needed a great debate last night, and he
got a very good one," Valliere wrote in a memo to clients.
"Obama stopped his free-fall, and he probably will be tied again
in polls by this weekend."
Valliere and other analysts said Romney bungled on foreign
policy when he mischaracterized - and was corrected by the
debate moderator - Obama's initial remarks on last month's
deadly attack on diplomatic facilities in Libya.
Instead, Obama took advantage of the moment to accuse Romney
and Ryan of politicizing the event that killed four Americans,
including U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Obama travels to Iowa and Ohio and Romney holds campaign
events in Virginia on Wednesday. All three states are considered
"swing states," with polls showing they could go to either
candidate in the presidential election.
Instant polls after the debate gave the edge to Obama.
But Romney, a former private equity adviser who says his
business experience will help him turn around the U.S. economy,
scored points when he accused Obama of failing to follow through
on promises of his 2008 campaign.
In one of his most effective moments of the debate, the
former Massachusetts governor said Obama's poor economic record
had led to 15 million more people on food stamps, slow growth
and a lack of jobs.
The debate's impact will not fully emerge for a couple days.
Romney enjoyed a surge after his first matchup with Obama on
Oct. 3, but the latest opinion polls show the presidential race
is near a dead heat.
Tuesday's Gallup poll had Romney ahead by 4 percentage
points in the 12 most contested states, while the daily
Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll shows Obama in the lead by 3 points
among likely voters across the country.
The Tuesday Reuters/Ipsos poll also showed more likely
voters have moved away from one of the candidates and declared
The two candidates were clearly seeking the female vote in
the debate on Tuesday night, but Romney stumbled over his words
as he explained how he supports equal opportunities for women.
He said while he was Massachusetts governor he once had
"binders full of women" candidates for cabinet jobs - an awkward
phrase that prompted a flurry of reaction on social media. The
claim also raised questions about whether influential women were
part of his circle while he was governor.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Preibus said
on MSNBC that Romney was just trying to emphasize that women are
a big part of his administration.
The pair meet again on Monday in Boca Raton, Florida, for
their final debate, which will be on foreign policy.