Republican strategist Ed Gillespie says Mitt Romney's first debate performance against President Barack Obama Wednesday night marks "a dynamic shift" in the presidential campaign and now has Americans focused on the differences between the two candidates.
Appearing Thursday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Gillespie said he believes the debate will "make a difference" in how Americans view Romney for the remainder of the race, saying it amounts to "a dynamic shift in the campaign" for the Republican nominee who had been criticized from within his own party for not appearing to have a grasp of the important issues facing the nation.
He said Romney put those concerns to rest with his performance and signaled that he is more than ready to take on the president directly, no matter what the issue.
"It was substantive debate last night and I think that's why [former Massachusetts] Gov. Romney did so well," said Gillespie, a senior adviser to the GOP nominee.
He added that laying out the "clear differences" between Romney and Obama "was what the debate was all about."
But Gillespie acknowledged criticism of Romneys' reluctance to lay out what loopholes and other deductions he wants to eliminate to lower taxes by 20 percent.
In defense of Romney, he suggested the issue of taxes was too politically sensitive to be "negotiated" in a campaign because it would force lawmakers to stake out positions early on in the heat of the campaign and block efforts to reach a bipartisan agreement with Congress.
"Doing it in a campaign environment . . . That's not the way to get things done," Gillespie said.
Earlier, Obama campaign manager David Axelrod appeared on "Morning Joe" to accuse Romney of misleading the American people in the debate on his tax proposal and other issues focused on the economy and the nation's budget deficit.
Axelrod said there were problems with Romney's "underlying theories" and "some fundamental dishonesty" with his presentation of the facts.
"The president came in and treated people like adults, talked about what we needed to do to move this country forward, rebuild the middle class, rebuild this economy, and Gov. Romney came in and basically played a shell game," Axelrod said.
The bottom line, Axelrod said, is Romney "would stick it to the middle class.”
Asked why the president didn't attack Romney more aggressively on his presentation of the facts, Axelrod said Obama wanted to focus his first debate performance on talking "directly to the American people."
He acknowledged, however, that the president may not have been satisfied with his own overall performance in the debate.
"What he was satisfied with is that he told the American people the truth and Gov. Romney can't say he met that same standard," Axelrod said.
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