Obama, Romney surrogates continue to spar over debate performances

(CNN) -- Surrogates continued to spar Sunday, October 7th over last week's presidential debate, with Democrats calling Mitt Romney's performance "superb acting" while Republicans said the GOP candidate showed substance.

President Obama's campaign senior adviser Robert Gibbs conceded the president failed to perform up to expectations last week in Denver, but quickly pivoted to judge Romney's stage presence as "a masterful theatrical performance" and "fundamentally dishonest for the American people."

"I think what's interesting is not -- I think it's who showed up on the Republican side," Gibbs said on ABC's "This Week." "You know, a clone that looked a lot like Mitt Romney, that had walked away from fundamentally every position that he'd taken."

Also appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, Gibbs said Romney "did a superb acting job. You know, he did everything but learn tap dance."

But Romney campaign senior adviser Ed Gillespie said Romney's style was irrelevant to the candidate's apparent win over President Barack Obama.

"The problem they have is the debate performance on Wednesday evening was not a matter of style, it was a matter of substance," Gillespie said on ABC. "Gov. Romney laid out a plan to turn this economy around, getting things moving again. He had a fact-based critique of Obama's failed policies that the president was unable to respond to."

Gillespie added: "The Obama campaign -- they remind me a little bit of a 7-year-old losing a checker game and instead, being frustrated with the outcome, they sweep the board off the table."

"It's not rocket science to believe that the president was disappointed in the expectations that he has for himself," Gibbs said on NBC. "I think part of that was because, as I said earlier, we met a new Mitt Romney. We met a new Mitt Romney that wanted to walk away from the central theory of his economic plan, which is his tax cut."

On both programs, Gibbs repeated a claim leveled by Obama during Wednesday's debate that Romney's tax plan would include $5 trillion in cuts if he were president -- a figure a CNN fact check has found to be false.

Gillespie reiterated Romney's defense that his tax plan does not call for $5 trillion in cuts and he would not enact a plan that adds to the federal deficit. During last week's debate and on the campaign trail, Romney has said his tax plan would increase economic activity by closing loopholes, which would result in increased federal government revenues.

Former Republican presidential challenger Newt Gingrich also criticized Obama's showing in Denver, questioning the president's preparedness.

"I think the challenge for the Obama people is pretty simple," said Gingrich on NBC. "The president of the United States had 90 minutes. Now if he had done his homework, if he'd actually prepared, if he'd actually studied Romney, why didn't he say it? I mean, why didn't he take Romney head on?"

President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney meet on the debate stage for the second of three debates Tuesday, October 16th at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York.

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