A short while after Mitt Romney flopped on a chance to hammer President Barack Obama on his handling of the situation in Libya — with a bit of assistance from moderator Candy Crowley — Republicans and Romney surrogates took to the spin room to provide their take on the exchange. Meanwhile other conservatives are panning the moment — including a scathing Wall Street Journal editorial this morning — as Romney’s “weakest moment,” the Republican surrogates painted it as Romney’s strongest.
The Republican spin provided a bizarre contrast that emerged from the immediate aftermath of the debate — both sides of surrogates claimed the Libya moment as their candidate’s most prominent and lasting.
Undeterred by backlash — including from many conservative pundits — Sean Spicer, communications director for the Republican National Committee, hinted that the party will continue to attack the president over the attack in Libya, focusing on the broader timeline of the administration’s handling of the incident. He said in the spin room that the RNC plans to flesh out the issue through a new round of messaging, that could include new television ads.
“It’s clear that the administration was, through and through, blaming this on a video,” Spicer told reporters.
Romney’s flub came in the latter half of the debate, when he charged that it took Obama days to call the incident a terrorist attack. Obama pointed out that he had referred to it as an “act of terror” the next day in a speech at the Rose Garden. When Romney repeated his claim, Crowley interjected and said that Obama “did, in fact, sir,” call it an “act of terror.”
That Rose Garden speech wasn’t good enough for New York Congressman Peter King, the Republican chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
“His administration peddled lies…He peddled more of the phony story tonight,” King said. “I think they selectively took the facts. Either that, or they were criminally negligent.”
RNC Chair Reince Priebus hit on the same theme.
“If you point-blank lie to the American people on something that’s already a headache for you, it’s not going to get any better,” Priebus said. “He didn’t call it a terrorist attack in the Rose Garden. If you get the transcripts, I don’t have it with me, but I know you’re all going to find it.”
The Obama side, meanwhile, also pointed to the Libya portion of the debate as their candidate’s most forceful moment.
Obama looked “commanding and resolute,” Obama campaign advisor Robert Gibbs told reporters. “I think the American people saw a calm, steady, responsible leader as our commander in chief.”
Romney, by contrast, looked “like an amateur,” Gibbs added.
“The response from Gov. Romney was rattled nervousness,” he said. “I thought Mitt Romney’s answer was extraordinarily poor for having to two weeks to prepare that question.”
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