After Strong V.P. Debate, Campaigns Look Ahead

Thursday the vice presidential candidates duked it out in their only debate of the campaign season. President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney will have their second face-off Tuesday at Hofstra University in New York. NPR's Ari Shapiro, on the road with Mitt Romney's campaign, talks with guest host Celeste Headlee.

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CELESTE HEADLEE, HOST:

With only 23 days left until the presidential election, the race is heating up. Thursday, the vice presidential candidates duked it out in their only debate of the campaign season. This Tuesday, President Obama and Governor Romney will face-off at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, for the second of three presidential debates. NPR's Ari Shapiro is on the road with the Romney campaign. Hi, Ari.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Hi. How are you doing?

HEADLEE: So let's look back towards the vice presidential candidates first. There was real no clear winner in the polls, at least. They seem to have been split. What's the Romney campaign said about Paul Ryan's performance?

SHAPIRO: Well, they're very happy with Paul Ryan's performance. I mean, they say that there was one person on the stage who looked respectful, who was calm and composed, who you would want to be with in times of crisis. Of course, they point to Paul Ryan as that person.

Whereas the Democrats are really thrilled that Vice President Biden did what they thought they needed to do, getting the base revved up, strongly rebutting Paul Ryan's points on the stage. And so both sides are declaring victory with some legitimacy, I think, frankly, on each side.

HEADLEE: Well, let's look ahead now to the presidential candidates. President Obama is taking the weekend off from campaigning to prepare for Tuesday's debate. What's Governor Romney going to do? Are we going to expect a similar performance from him as we saw last time?

SHAPIRO: You know, it's interesting. Governor Romney has a pattern of doing his best when people are starting to count him out the most. So the question is now that Romney's virtually tied with President Obama in the polls, will he be able to turn in the same kind of grand-slam performance that he turned in when he was lagging behind and people were already writing obituaries for him?

HEADLEE: Well, as I said, we're 23 days away. That's just about three weeks. That's pretty close. How much could the race change at this point before Election Day?

SHAPIRO: Well, in the last month, it changed dramatically. I mean, in the last week, it changed dramatically. And so with three weeks left to go, any number of things could happen, whether it's a stellar debate performance by one or the other of the candidates, a huge gaffe, some external event that nobody anticipates. There's a lot that could change in three weeks.

Right now, the race is a much more intense competition than it was going into the first debate. You know, all these polls show that President Obama and Mitt Romney are basically tied. For the first time, Mitt Romney is inching slightly into the lead in some of these swing states, but it is such a small lead that it's really only safe to call this a tie and nothing more at this point.

HEADLEE: That's NPR's Ari Shapiro keeping his eyes on the campaign and on the road with Mitt Romney. Thanks, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Good to talk to you.

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