By Justin Sink and Ben Geman - 10/10/12 05:37 PM EDT
Mitt Romney looked to boost his post-debate momentum and get in some practice for his next encounter on Wednesday with a town hall meeting in Ohio, where he fielded questions from voters in the crucial battleground sate.
Romney saw a bounce in the polls after his strong performance against President Obama in last week's debate, but Ohio is one state where Obama has fared well since that showdown.
Joined onstage by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Romney fielded questions on a variety of topics, from energy to foreign policy.
The Republican presidential nominee was also asked about his recent debate performance, and whether he benefited from not having his words filtered by the media.
Romney responded by joking that he had watched his wife's appearance on "Good Morning America" that morning and, between the segments, got to see some of the attack ads flooding the battleground airwaves.
"Good thing I don't do that very often, because my blood pressure would be very high," Romney quipped.
But Romney said that he appreciated the country's free press and that there were "hundreds of stations" for individuals to choose from.
"I don't worry in the campaign about what the media says, I worry about what I say," Romney said.
Romney and Christie also touted Romney’s vow to expand oil-and-gas drilling on federal lands and waters, and speed up permitting.
They called it a way to boost jobs in the energy and manufacturing sectors, arguing that further expansion of natural-gas development will help keep costs low for chemical companies and other manufacturers that rely on the fuel.
“If I’m president I will double the number of permits and licenses on federal lands and in federal waters and we’re going to get the federal lands and federal waters to produce more energy just like the private sector is doing now on private lands,” he said to applause.
Romney, who has also vowed to approve the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline from Canada, said his energy plans would have a quick effect on U.S. hiring.
“You do that and by next May or June you will start seeing a better employment picture here in America,” Romney said, speaking at Ariel Corp., a manufacturer of gas compressors.
Christie said lowering energy costs for manufacturers is a way to counteract movement of jobs to China and eliminate “artificial advantages” that China has. Romney and other critics say China’s currency valuation practices are unfair.
Overall U.S. natural-gas production is at record levels, but Republicans say declines in production on federal lands show that the Obama administration is not doing enough to spur development.
But administration officials note the migration of drilling toward state and private lands is a market-based decision as companies seek out shale gas areas that are often outside of federal lands.
Romney was also pressed about whether he would have vetoed legislation that allowed for terror suspects, including American citizens, to be detained indefinitely.
"I can assure when I become president … I will not do things that interfere with our rights and our freedoms," Romney said, before saying he did support legislation like the Patriot Act that expanded the intelligence-gathering toolbox.
"I will work very hard to assure we use every source of our intelligence and our security personnel to protect American lives," Romney said.
He also reiterated criticisms of Obama's foreign policy, saying he wanted "a military that is so strong we don't have to use it, because people look at it and say, 'I don’t want to test that military.'
"America is the leader of the free world," Romney added. "That doesn't mean we send troops everywhere and we shoot everybody. It means instead we use our considerable economic influence and diplomatic influence to move people."
Romney again told the story of his chance meeting with former Navy SEAL Glen Doherty, one of the four American foreign service workers who died in the terrorist attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
The comments were the first time Romney had mentioned the story since Doherty's mother criticized him to Boston television station WHDH.
"I don't trust Romney," Barbara Doherty said. "He shouldn't make my son's death part of his political agenda. It's wrong to use these brave young men, who wanted freedom for all, to degrade Obama."
Romney will continue to campaign throughout Ohio on Wednesday.
In a statement released by the Obama campaign, Obama spokesman Danny Kanner called the event "a barrage of head-spinning falsehoods."
“Mitt Romney might be willing to say anything to win votes just four weeks before an election, but middle-class families understand that the real Mitt Romney would take us back to the same policies that crashed our economy in the first place," Kanner said.