By Daniel Strauss - 10/04/12 05:53 PM EDT
A surrogate for Mitt Romney on Thursday said President Obama's performance at the first presidential debate, held in Denver, revealed how "lazy and detached he is."
The surrogate, former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu (R), made the remarks in an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, a day after the crucial debate. Polls showed most viewers believed Romney won the first of three face-to-face clashes, and even many Obama supporters acknowledged that the president's performance could have been stronger.
"I think even the liberal press reacted with shock at this revelation, and I find it fascinating now this morning, after they've slept, to watch them all scrambling around to clean up the mess the president left on the floor last night," he continued.
Sununu also praised Romney's performance, saying that the GOP nominee had shown a deeper understanding of the issues that matter to voters.
"On the other hand, Mitt Romney came in with a lot of specifics, a lot of very sharp knowledge of issues not only with the Obama version of bumper sticker numbers, but the governor showed that he understands policy and he understands how to make policy into law, talking about what he did in Massachusetts," said Sununu.
Sununu was then pressed by Mitchell on whether he really meant to use the word "lazy" to describe the president's performance. Sununu defended his use of the word, noting that Obama had said on Monday that debate preparation was a "drag."
"Yes. I think — think you saw him admit it the night before when he delivered the pizzas," Sununu said. "He said, you know, 'they're making me do this work.' He didn't want to prepare for this debate. He's lazy and disengaged."
During a visit to a campaign office near Las Vegas on Monday, Obama brought pizzas for staffers and joked about his debate prep time.
"Basically they're keeping me indoors all the time. It's a drag. They're making me do my homework," Obama had said.
A Democratic strategist said Sununu wouldn't have made the comments if the person in question were Ronald Reagan.
"Some days they call Barack Obama arrogant, today Sununu called him lazy. Those kinds of characterizations of are just a fact of life for this president. John Sununu would never call Ronald Reagan lazy and he took naps in the middle of the day," the strategist said.
Asked if the comments had racial overtones, the strategist said, "It seems that way."
Sununu, a prominent Romney surrogate, has made tough statements about the president before. In July, he was forced to walk back remarks when, on a conference call with reporters, he said Obama should "learn how to be an American."
Sununu clarified the comments at the end of that call, saying that Obama needed to better "learn the American formula for creating business."
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), a Romney backer, at the time said Sununu had a "knack for colorful language."
Updated at 4:47 p.m.