Obama and Romney set for crucial presidential face off

Obama and Romney set for crucial presidential face off

Obama and Romney set for crucial presidential face off

Obama talks on the phone with former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in this 2011 photo, taken from the White House website. The president is preparing for the first of a trio of presidential debates with Romney.

U.S. President Barack Obama is preparing for his first debate with Mitt Romney, saying the clash was about security for hard-working Americans, not rhetorical “zingers.” Obama heaped pressure on his foe, who is angling for a dramatic turnaround for his ailing campaign in tomorrow’s showdown, before bunkering down in a resort in Nevada’s rocky desert to shake off his mothballed debating skills.

“The media is speculating already on who is going to have the best zingers... who’s going to put the most points on the board,” Obama told a floodlit rally of 11,000 people in a Hispanic suburb of Las Vegas Sept. 30. “Governor Romney, he’s a good debater ... I’m just okay,” Obama said, as he upped the stakes in the classic game of expectations setting that rival campaigns wage before big debates.

First of three
Obama sought to frame the face-off, the first of a trio of presidential debates, as a contrast between substance and style, and to paint himself as the champion of the hurting middle class. “What I am most concerned about is having a serious discussion about what we need to do to keep the country going and restore security for hard-working Americans,” Obama said.

“That is what people are going to be listening for, that is the debate you deserve,” the president told the crowd. Romney and Obama will meet in Denver, Colorado tomorrow night for the first of three debates crucial to shaping the remaining five weeks of the president’s bid for a second term in the White House. Obama currently leads the national race by five points in the latest Gallup daily tracking poll and in most key battlegrounds ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

While the classic pre-debate spin requires campaigns to play down the chances of their man, gruff New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appeared not to get the memo from the Romney campaign. “Wednesday [Oct. 3] night is the restart of this campaign and I think you’re going to see those numbers start to move right back in the other direction,” Christie said.

Obama gifted, Ryan admits
“This whole race is going to be turned upside down come Thursday [Oct. 4] morning.” The Obama campaign pounced on the comment, which will permit the president’s camp to portray the former Massachusetts governor’s performance as disappointing, whatever the outcome of the debate.

“What [Christie] said is what they’ve been saying for months, that they expect ... the debates will turn the race upside down,” Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One. “We fully expect that that’s what they’re focused on.” Romney’s vice presidential pick Paul Ryan admitted to “some missteps” after Romney’s nightmare month in the White House race, and sought to moderate expectations, saying no debate would “make or break” the campaign.

Obama is “a very gifted speaker,” Ryan said. “The man’s been on the national stage for many years. He’s an experienced debater. He’s done these kinds of debates before. This is Mitt’s first time on this kind of a stage.”