Sensing blood in the water from his own candidate, Obama's lead strategist David Axelrod called on reporters to act as watch dogs on Romney in the final days of the debate on a conference call today.
Axelrod characterized Romney's performance as "devoid of honesty," and "completely untethered from the truth." Yet he admitted it was "vigorous" and for that reason, reportedly argued on a conference call with reporters that the media would need to hold Romney to account where the president could not [emphasis added]:
"And so today, as the day after, I think the question for you [the media], for the American people is really one of character and whether or not a candidacy that's so fundamentally rooted in hiding the truth and the facts from the American people and deception is the basis of trust on which you assign the presidency to a person.
"So that is what we are going to focus on moving forward. We're going to hold Governor Romney accountable for the things that he said last night and we're going to make him justify those claims - as I hope you will make him justify those claims.
"Because we need an an honest and a genuine and realistic plan to move forward and not a bunch of lines designed to get you through a debate."
Axelrod also suggested that Obama would be shifting strategy in the coming debates, though apparently not completely so.
"He made a choice last night to answer the questions that were asked and to talk to the American people about what we need to do to move forward and to not get into serial fact checking with Governor Romney, which can be an exhausting never ending pursuit," Axelrod joked. "Obviously moving forward we're going to take a hard look at this and we're going to have to make some judgements as to where to draw the line in these debates and how to use our time."
Observers may take these lines as an apparent concession by Axelrod that his team was caught flat footed by Romney's dramatic shift, both in terms of confidence, and in terms of message. President Obama's next chance to try and assail this juggernaut-in-hiding will be on October 16, when he and Romney will meet for a Town Hall style debate on Long Island.