Obama on debate with Romney: 'I had a bad night'

SIDNEY, Ohio (AP) — President Barack Obama

conceded Wednesday he did poorly in a debate last week that fueled a

comeback by

his rival in the race for the White House. Mitt Romney barnstormed

battleground Ohio and pledged "I'm not going to raise taxes

on anyone" in a new commercial.

A perennial campaign issue flared

unexpectedly as Romney reaffirmed he is running as a "pro-life candidate

and I'll be a pro-life

president." He spoke one day after saying in an interview he was

not aware of any abortion-related legislation that would

become part of his agenda if he wins the White House.

Romney and Obama maneuvered in a race with 27 days to run as Vice President Joe Biden and Republican running mate Paul Ryan

looked ahead to their only debate, set for Thursday night in Danville, Ky.

Whatever the impact of the Biden-Ryan

encounter, last week's presidential debate boosted Romney in the polls

nationally and

in Ohio and other battleground states, to the point that Obama was

still struggling to explain a performance even his aides

and supporters say was subpar.

"Gov. Romney had a good night. I had a bad night. It's not the first time I've had a bad night," Obama said in an ABC interview.

Asked if it was possible he had handed the election to Romney, the president replied: "No."

"What's important is the fundamentals of what this race is about haven't changed," he said. "You know, Gov. Romney went to

a lot of trouble to try to hide what his positions are," he said, referring to abortion as an example.

Despite the presidential display of

confidence, public opinion polls suggested the impact of last week's

debate was to wipe

out most, if not all, of the gains Obama made following both

parties' national conventions and the emergence in late summer

of a videotape in which Romney spoke dismissively of 47 percent of

Americans whom he said pay no income taxes. They feel as

if they are victims, he said, adding they don't take personal

responsibilities for their lives.

Eager to capitalize on his newfound momentum, Romney told more than 7,000 packed into a western Ohio rally: "We can't afford

four more years of Barack Obama."

The Republican challenger made three public appearances in Ohio on Wednesday and will spend two of the next three days in

the state.

"Ohio could well be the place that elects the next president of the United States," he said. "I need you to do that job. We're

going to win together."

Romney's new television commercial was an appeal to voters' pocketbooks — and also a rebuttal to Obama's claim that Romney

had a plan to cut taxes by $5 trillion on the wealthy that would mean higher taxes for the middle class.

"The president would prefer raising taxes," Romney is shown saying in an exchange from last week's debate. "I'm not going

to raise taxes on anyone. ... My priority is putting people back to work in America."

Unemployment and the economy have been the

dominant issues in the race for the presidency, and while Romney gained

from the

debate, last week's drop in the jobless rate to 7.8 percent gave

Obama a new talking point for the Democratic claim that his

policies are helping the country recover, however slowly, from the

worst recession in decades.

Romney also sought to lay any

abortion-related controversy to rest as he campaigned across Ohio, a

battleground with 18 electoral

votes and one of the places where he has gained ground since last

week's debate.

"I think I've said time and again that I'm a pro-life candidate and I'll be a pro-life president," he said, renewing his promise

to cut off federal aid for Planned Parenthood and implement a ban on the use of foreign aid for abortions overseas.

But by the time he spoke, Obama's aides had already jumped on comments from an interview with The Des Moines Register in which

Romney said "there's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda."

Stephanie Cutter, Obama's deputy campaign

manager, told reporters on a conference call that Romney was "cynically

and dishonestly"

hiding his positions on women's issues. "We're not saying he's

changed his mind on these issues. We're saying he's trying

to cover up his beliefs," she said.

For entirely different reasons, one prominent anti-abortion group agreed that he shouldn't.

As if to remind Romney of his previous

statements on the issue, the head of the anti-abortion group Susan B.

Anthony List

distributed an article he wrote last summer vowing to prohibit

federal funding for Planned Parenthood and to support legislation

that would "protect unborn children who are capable of feeling

pain from abortion."

"We have full confidence that as president, Gov. Romney will stand by the pro-life commitments," said Marjorie Dannenfelser,

the group's president.

Vice presidential encounters rarely make a significant difference in a White House campaign, although aides engage in the

same sort of attempt to shape public expectations as when the men at the top of the ticket are ready to face off.

For Ryan's camp, that meant whispering that

the 42-year-old Wisconsin congressman and House Budget Committee

chairman was

comfortable discussing spending issues and domestic policy, but

might not be able to hold his own on foreign policy, a Biden

strong suit.

The vice president's side let it be known that Ryan is smart and wonky, a man who knows the budget better than anyone — but

it's a version that omits mention of Biden's nearly four decades of experience in government and his role as Obama's point

man in budget negotiations with Republicans on an elusive deficit-reduction deal.

Romney's wife, Ann, took a turn as guest host on ABC's "Good Morning America" and spoke candidly about experiencing depression

after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 14 years ago. She said horses helped her recover her mental health.

"I was very, very weak and very much worried about my life, thinking I was going to be in a wheelchair as well. Turned to

horses, my life has been dramatically different," she said. "They gave me the energy, the passion to get out of bed when I

was so sick that I didn't think I'd ever want to get out of bed."

Mrs. Romney is part-owner of a horse that competed this summer in the Olympic sport of dressage, the equine equivalent of

ballet.