SAN FRANCISCO — With each passing day, it seems that President Obama has increasingly absorbed the impact of his weak debate showing against Mitt Romney. And as he’s eager for his supporters to know that he knows it’s time to step up his game.
“I am pretty competitive, and I very much intend to win this election,” he told a group of donors here Monday night.
Part of that process is testing new lines playing off the debate. On Sunday night in Los Angeles, he played the humility card, admitting for the first time an inconsistent performance.
On Monday in San Francisco, he had a new attack on Romney for, in his mind, abandoning the hard-right positions he espoused to win the primaries in favor of a new centrist message. Romney may as well have said to voters, “Don’t pay any attention to that tax cut behind the curtain,” Obama jabbed, in reference to his view that Romney’s economic plan would further deepen the deficit to provide new benefits to the wealthy.
“After the debate I had a bunch of people come to me — ‘Don’t be so polite, don’t be so nice,’” he said before several thousand supporters at a second fundraising event. “But I want everybody to understand something. What was being presented wasn’t leadership. That’s salesmanship.”
That line drew the loudest and most sustained applause of the event, a concert open to supporters who donated as little as $44, though in most cases far more.
And throughout the president’s approximately 20-minute speech, attendees could be heard shouting multiple times in reference to upcoming debates, with one saying Obama should “Give him hell.”
Yet even as he signaled a new urgency on his own part, the president insisted that the election would not be won or lost purely based on his debate performance.
“Only you’ve got the power to move us forward. I will be there with you, but this is a team, people,” he said. “It won’t happen if you’ve got somebody who writes off half the nation even before he takes office. But it also won’t happen if half the nation writes off itself by not participating, or doesn’t vote.”
Obama made no specific reference Monday to Romney’s foreign policy speech earlier in the day in Virginia, leaving the task of responding to surrogates. But he opened his remarks at the larger rally by highlighting his record.
“Four years ago, I made a few commitments to you. I told you I’d end the war in Iraq, and I did. I said I’d end the war in Afghanistan, and we are,” he said. “I said we’d refocus on the people who actually attacked us on 9/11, and today al-Qaida’s on its heels and Osama bin Laden is no more.”
Monday’s events added more than $4 million to Obama’s campaign war chest, in addition to the more than $5 million he raised in Los Angeles on Sunday. It is likely his final swing in California before Election Day.