U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are both heading back to the campaign trail Wednesday, hours after squaring off in an energetic and, at times, contentious debate.
The president travels to the midwestern states of Iowa and Ohio, hoping to use his strong performance in Tuesday's debate at New York's Hofstra University to regain momentum after his lackluster showing in the first debate earlier this month. Instant voter opinion polls by several news outlets, including CNN, showed Obama the winner over the former Massachusetts governor.
Romney, who campaigns in the southeastern state of Virginia, is in a virtual tie with the president, thanks to the Republican challenger's strong performance in the first debate.
During Tuesday's town-hall style meeting with undecided voters, Romney attacked the president's record over the last four years, saying Obama had "doubled" the deficit and had not accomplished what he said he would do.
"He said that by now we'd have unemployment at 5.4 percent. The difference between where it is and 5.4 percent is 9 million Americans without work," noted Romney. "I wasn't the one that said 5.4 percent. This was the president's plan - didn't get there. He said he would have by now put forward a plan to reform Medicare and Social Security because he pointed out they're on the road to bankruptcy. He would reform them. He'd get that done. He hasn't even made a proposal on either one."
The president fired back, saying he has kept most of his commitments. He said the commitments he has not been able to keep were not for "a lack of trying," and promised he would fulfill them in a second term.
"Four years ago I told the American people, and I told you, I would cut taxes for middle class families, and I did. I told you I'd cut taxes on small businesses and I have," Obama said. "I said I would end the war in Iraq, and I did. I said that we would refocus attention on those who actually attacked us on 9-11, and we have gone after al-Qaida's leadership like never before and Osama bin Laden is dead."
The two also battled over plans to pull the U.S. out of its economic slump in the next four years. Obama said Romney's plan to lower tax rates for everyone, keep tax cuts for the wealthy and increase defense spending would add to the deficit and hurt the economy.
"If somebody came to you, governor, with a plan that said, 'Here I want to spend 7 or $8 trillion, and we're going to pay for it but we can't to tell you how until after the election how we're going to do it,' you wouldn't have taken such a sketchy deal, and neither should you, the American people, because the math doesn't add up," Obama quipped.
However, Romney said his tax plan would lead to job growth and a balanced budget.
"Of course they add up. I was someone who ran businesses for 25 years and balanced the budget," Romney said. "I ran the Olympics and balanced the budget. I ran the state of Massachusetts as a governor, to the extent any governor does, and balanced the budget all four years. When we're talking about math that doesn't add up, how about $4 trillion of deficits?"
The two contenders also focused on the last month's attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Romney accused the president of taking two weeks to tell the American people that the attack on the consulate that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans was an act of terrorism. He also said the president had continued to campaign rather than focus on the September 11 attack.
The president said he called the Benghazi attack an act of terrorism the day after it took place. He said the suggestion that anyone in his government would use the violence in Libya to play politics or mislead the American people is "offensive."
The third and final presidential debate will be held next Monday in Florida, and will focus exclusively on foreign policy.