WASHINGTON — President Obama’s campaign is working feverishly to restore its momentum after a lackluster debate performance last week, an effort that began with a conference call 10 minutes before the debate even ended and led to new advertisements, a rewritten stump speech, a carefully timed leak and a reversal of months-old strategy.
Perhaps most important as the president’s team struggles to put his campaign back on track is a renewed effort to win the three remaining debates, starting with Thursday’s face-off between Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Representative Paul D. Ryan. Mr. Biden began traveling to a Delaware hotel on Sunday for three days of debate camp.
On stage, Mr. Obama seemed thrown off as Mr. Romney emphasized elements of his agenda that seemed more moderate and was surprised that the moderator, Jim Lehrer of PBS, did not pose more pointed questions. The president’s team had decided in advance not to raise Mr. Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, aides said, but Mr. Obama held back on other attack lines they had intended to use. The base wanted him “to gut Romney,” one adviser said, but swing voters hate that and he was seeking a balance. Few thought he found it.
Mr. Obama’s advisers were so off balance that they did not show up in the media filing center for the traditional post-debate spin until long after the Republicans. But they were relieved that at least there was no single memorable moment to be used against Mr. Obama in an ad. And they took some solace from focus groups showing that he broke even with Mr. Romney on substance even if he lost over all.