President Barack Obama spent Thursday firing off the lines he missed in his debate with Mitt Romney, clawing at his Republican foe in a bid to deprive him of a well earned polling boost.
Obama pounded out attacks at big rallies in Colorado and Wisconsin and was energetic, combative and concise, the opposite of the subdued and long-winded candidate outpointed by Romney on Wednesday night.
The president beseeched voters not to be duped by the suave debater seen by 67 million television viewers, but to focus on the "real Mitt Romney" who he said promised tax cuts for the rich and cared little for teachers.
"If you want to be president, you owe the American people the truth," a fired-up Obama told supporters anxious not to see him fritter away his opinion poll lead with less than five weeks to go before election day.
But Obama aides admitted that they needed to have a "hard look" at their strategy before the next debate on October 16, after Romney used the first of a trio of head-to-head clashes to breathe fresh life into a sagging campaign.
Romney celebrated his debate coup with a surprise visit to a conservative conference in the Colorado city of Denver, and warned Obama's economic policies would take America down a slippery slope to the fate of debt-laden Europe.
"I saw the president's vision as trickle-down government and I don't think that's what America believes in," Romney said. "I see instead a prosperity that comes through freedom."
Romney's victory lap was next to take in the vital swing state of Virginia, with his vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan in tow.
Obama sought to capitalize on openings he missed on Wednesday against the well prepared Romney, including his vow to end government subsidies for PBS television, the stomping ground of famed Sesame Street character Big Bird.
"He would get rid of regulations on Wall Street, but he's gonna crack down on Sesame Street. Thank goodness somebody is finally cracking down on Big Bird," Obama said in the picturesque Wisconsin college town of Madison.
Obama also leapt on Romney's comment Wednesday that he had never heard of a tax break for companies that ship jobs overseas, and would need a new accountant if it was true.
"He seems to be doing just fine with his current accountant," he said, poking fun at Romney's complex offshore tax arrangements, which Democrats highlight to press the case he is indifferent to middle-class struggles.
In a hiccup for the normally smooth Obama machine Thursday, the campaign missed a chance to highlight its biggest crowd so far -- 30,000 -- in Madison, Wisconsin, after an airport delay in Denver meant the following press corps missed the event.
Top Obama aide David Axelrod promised a rethink of tactics before the next debate at Hofstra University, New York, and said the "Artful Dodger" untruths of the Republican candidate made him hard to handle in a debate.
"We are going to take a hard look at this," Axelrod said. "I'm sure we will make adjustments."
Obama advisor David Plouffe played down the idea that Romney's slick performance would reset a race in which Obama leads national polls and in the key battlegrounds.
"While Governor Romney might have put forth a performance that's graded as an aggressive one last night, we don't think that that fundamentally alters the race," Plouffe said.
"I would just humbly suggest you cast your gaze to places like Ohio and Iowa and New Hampshire, and see if the race structurally changes."
Independent fact checkers agreed that the more flagrant manipulations of the facts in Denver were committed by the Republican challenger.
"The fact checkers will have a field day on Romney," congressional expert Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington told AFP.
"He brazenly lied on numerous occasions and that could change the story line over the next several days."
Obama could suffer a new jolt on Friday, with the release of the latest set of monthly jobs figures by the Labor Department, which are not expected to break a trend of disappointing data generated by a sluggish recovery.
In August, the unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent but only 94,000 net new jobs were created, adding fuel to Romney's claims that Obama has run out of ideas to speed up the economic recovery.