Candidates hit campaign trail after Romney’s strong debate

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    President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney return to the campaign trail in battleground states on Thursday after going toe-to-toe on dominant campaign issues of taxes, healthcare and the economy in a debate that analysts and a snap poll agreed the Republican challenger won.

    In exchanges full of policy proposals, facts and figures, Romney was more aggressive in the 90-minute encounter on Wednesday night at the University of Denver, the first of three debates ahead of the November election.

    Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist and CNN contributor, expressed surprise at Romney’s strong performance, saying he “rose to the moment” and seemed to benefit from the multiple primary debates.

    “It looked like Romney wanted to be there and President Obama didn’t want to be there,” noted Democratic strategist and CNN contributor James Carville. “The president didn’t bring his ‘A’ game.”

    The CNN/ORC International poll of 430 people who watched the debate showed 67% thought Romney won, compared to 25% for Obama.

    Obama remains in Colorado for his first post-debate appearance before heading to Wisconsin. Romney joins running mate Rep. Paul Ryan at a rally in Virginia. Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden will speak at an Iowa campaign event.

    The next presidential debate is October 16 in New York, and the third takes place on October 22 in Florida. Biden and Ryan will debate on October 11 in Kentucky

    A forceful Romney criticized Obama’s record and depicted the president’s vision as one of big government, while the Democratic incumbent defended his achievements and challenged his rival’s prescriptions as unworkable.

    The post-debate verdict swung clearly to Romney.

    “A week ago, people were saying this was over. We’ve got a horse race,” said CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen, who called the debate Romney’s best so far after the 22 the former Massachusetts governor took part in during the GOP primary campaign.

    Courtesy Of CNN.COM

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