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Post-debate, Romney focuses on economy; no mention of Libya

After Tuesday's fiery presidential debate, the heated arguments between GOP candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama showed no signs of cooling on the stump as they tried to cast each other as economic threats to voters in Ohio, Iowa and Virginia. NBC's Peter Alexander reports.



LEESBURG, Va. – In two appearances Wednesday in the critical battleground state of Virginia, Mitt Romney focused on what he called the president's lack of a second term agenda, while avoiding Libya, a major flashpoint from Tuesday night's debate. 

"I think it’s interesting that the president still doesn’t have an agenda for a second term. Don’t you think that it’s time for him to finally put together a vision of what he’d do in the next four years if he were elected?" Romney said in Chesapeake, Va. on Wednesday afternoon.

At an evening event in Northern Virginia, Romney continued to work that theme, occasionally revisiting moments from the debate – as President Barack Obama did on the stump after the first debate – with snappier retorts.

"I just have to mention, I remember last night the president also saying about energy," Romney recalled before some 8,000 supporters Wednesday night. "He said, you know, we built pipelines that would go around the earth, and I thought, ‘It's just the one that comes from Canada with the oil is the one that we want, you see?’ And that's the one I'm going to get."

Libya went unmentioned in either appearance on Wednesday.

Alex Brandon / AP

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign event in front of a barn at Ida Lee Park in Leesburg, Va. on Wednesday.

The timeline of the attacks and the Obama administration’s response seemed to trip Romney during the debate.  

Conservatives had previously said the attacks show the White House’s weakness in terms of foreign policy, and both campaigns spent much of Tuesday night's spin room session with reporters re-litigating the finer points of the administration's declaration of the attack as an act of terror.

"With 20 days left, today was a good day to hammer home the contrast between a candidate who has a plan to fix the economy in Governor Romney and a candidate who doesn't have a record to run on or a plan for the future, that being President Obama," Romney senior adviser Kevin Madden said when asked why Romney didn't talk about Libya Wednesday. "Libya is still an issue with many voters, particularly given the conflicting statements from the president and his administration about the nature of the attack. The American people still have unanswered questions."

Obama campaign spokesperson Jen Psaki offered a different view while discussing the debate with reporters aboard Air Force One today, suggesting that Obama's command of the Libya questions in Tuesday's debate might have shut down conversation on the issue -- for now.

"Our view is that the president – the back-and-forth on Libya last night was one of the best moments for the president, one of the best moments in recent debate history," Psaki said. "And that's because the president made clear that being commander-in-chief is about being a leader. It’s not about political gamesmanship." 

Reuters, Getty Images

In the final push in the 2012 presidential election, candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama make their last appeals to voters.

With a foreign policy debate coming Monday, Romney did make a point of mentioning other global issues at his second stop Wednesday, highlighting the importance of keeping America's military strong and ticking off a handful of world trouble spots he rarely mentions in a typical stump speech. 

"I look around the world at North Korea, with its nuclear capability and a very strange dictator. I look at what’s happening throughout the Middle East and Pakistan," Romney said. "I look around North Africa now, with north Mali having been taken by an al-Qaida affiliate, and I recognize the world continues to be dangerous, and the decisions we make now about our military will determine our ability to defend ourselves in the future."