Obama's team said the debate helped sharpen their message on the economy, the top issue for voters. On both Tuesday and Wednesday, Obama called Romney's economic proposals "a sketchy deal," a phrase voters can expect to hear frequently in the campaign's closing weeks.
The campaign also plans to use a debate exchange on immigration in its final push for Hispanic votes. Obama needs to run up big margins with Hispanics in swing states like Colorado, Nevada and Virginia. The president used the debate to promote his administration's efforts to provide a path to legal status for many young illegal immigrants, while Romney said he wouldn't grant amnesty to people who come to the U.S. illegally.
Obama's aggressive debate performance calmed the nerves of many Democrats, no small accomplishment given the deep anxiety that set in among many supporters following the president's first debate.
"I think everybody takes their cue from the leader," said David Axelrod, Obama's senior campaign strategist.
Associated Press writers Ken Thomas in Mount Vernon, Iowa, and Ben Feller in Washington contributed to this report.
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