The re-energized presidential campaign of Mitt Romney hopes to capitalize on a strong debate performance with rallies in the battleground states of Virginia and Florida on Friday.
The Republican candidate, whose poll numbers were lagging before Wednesday's debate, told a crowd of supporters Thursday that President Barack Obama can no longer be trusted with the struggling U.S. economy.
"Why is it that the middle class is still buried in this country? Why is it that we have 23 million people out of work? Why is it half our kids coming out of college can't find good jobs?" Romney asked the crowd. "Why is it one out of six people have fallen into poverty? Why is it that when he took office, 32 million people were on food stamps and today 47 million people are on foodstamps?"
Later in the day, Romney attempted to repair the damage done by a secretly taped video in which he said 47 percent of Americans saw themselves as victims and were dependent on the government. Romney told Fox News the comments were "completely wrong."
Meanwhile, President Obama, who holds rallies at colleges in Virginia and Ohio on Friday, went on the attack, accusing his rival of changing his campaign positions to a more centrist perspective during the debate.
"When I got onto the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney," Obama told supporters. "But I know it couldn't have been Mitt Romney, because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy, and yet the fellow on stage last night, who looked like Mitt Romney, said he didn't know anything about that."
Opinion polls suggest that Romney won the first debate of the general election, which Nielsen ratings agency says was seen by over 67 million people. That represents an increase of 28 percent from the first debate in the 2008 presidential campaign.
Senior Obama aide David Axelrod says the campaign will likely adjust its strategy for the next two debates, though other campaign officials said it was unlikely the president will spend much additional time in debate preparation.
Many Democrats were upset that the president did not bring up challenger Romney's "47 percent" remarks during the first presidential debate
Thursday was the first time that the former Massachusetts governor has disavowed the comments. Previously, he said they were "not elegantly stated," but that he stood by them.
The next big moment in the campaign comes early Friday when the Labor Department releases its monthly jobs report, which includes an update to the unemployment rate.
Despite lackluster jobs reports in previous months, the president has held a lead of five to six percentage points over Romney in most national polls. He also led in polls in most key battleground states.