Come Thursday, things were different.
“I’m energized by last night,” said Harvey Almarode, a retired teacher from nearby Stuarts Draft, Va., who said he was previously “skeptical about how the campaign was going.”
Romney’s combination of aggressively battling Mr. Obama while maintaining a “gentlemanly manner” was “awesome. It really exceeded all my expectations,” he said.
On a night when Romney and running mate Paul Ryan, who was also in attendance, received the endorsement of the National Rifle Association, the former governor of Massachusetts used points from the debate to try to drive home long-standing criticisms of Obama.
“I got the chance to ask the president questions that people across the country have wanted to ask him, such as why is it that he pushed ‘Obamacare’ at a time when we had 23 million people out of work,” Romney said.
“I asked, you know: Why is it that the middle class is still buried in this country? Why is it we have 23 million people out of work? Why is it half of our kids coming out of college can't find good jobs? Why is it that 1 out of 6 people have fallen into poverty?” he continued.
Romney’s debate performance may even reverberate in the state’s ultracompetitive Senate race between two former governors, Tim Kaine (D) and Mr. Allen. Several recent polls had shown both Obama and Kaine opening up wider leaders on their Republican competitors.
Bob Holsworth, a longtime analyst of Virginia politics, believes Romney put an end to the GOP’s polling doldrums in the commonwealth on Wednesday night.