Debate 2012: Dems, GOP Tamp Down Expectations
Despite Obama poll lead, both he and Romney cry underdog going into Denver debate
Heading into tonight's first presidential debate, both sides are playing down expectations of big wins for their candidates.
Despite President Barack Obama's lead in recent polls of likely voters and the advantage any incumbent usually has going into a head-to-head discussion of the issues, Democratic party leaders it's really GOP challenger Mitt Romney who has the upper hand.
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“People forget that [the president] hasn’t debated in four year and gets just hours to prep, in between managing the responsibilities of the running the country,” Democratic National Committee press secretary Melanie Roussell said by phone.
The president’s lead in battleground states, Roussell said, is no substitute for a specifics-oriented performance going into tonight's debate at the University of Denver with the former Massachusetts governor. And specifics will be key for the president.
“Romney spent three day straight preparing in Vermont, but he’s not going to talk about the details of his plans. He’s been practicing his zingers to tear down the president.” Roussell said.
Romney's penchant for lackluster policy details -- as well as poll-sinking gaffes -- has some in his party biting their nails with anxiety. Romney even recently warned that he might not have time to go into policy detail because he’d spend his time fact-checking Obama’s debate rhetoric.
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“I think the challenge that I’ll have in the debate is that the president tends to, how shall I say it, to say things that aren’t true,” Romney said during an interview Sept. 14 with ABC's “Good Morning America.”
“I’ve looked at prior debates. And in that kind of case, it’s difficult to say, ‘Well, am I going to spend my time correcting things that aren’t quite accurate? Or am I going to spend my time talking about the things I want to talk about?’”
Obama also has been playing down his upcoming performance, telling a crowd of grassroots supporters in Las Vegas on Sunday that he’s “just okay” at debating Romney, who participated in more than a dozen Republican primary debates and forums while Obama had no primary challengers to "practice" upon.
Both candidates are expected to focus on domestic policy issues, including each other’s record on creating jobs, immigration reform and regarding at least a few social issues.
Expectations are high for the president, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll out Monday. More than half of registered voters (56 percent) think Obama will win the debate. In that same poll, 63 percent are predicating that Obama will win the election. Romney also suffers from a growing favorability gap with the president, suggesting likely voters aren't feeling any more connected to the candidate post-GOP political convention.
Republicans are hoping debate moderators (and their candidate) spend very little time on Romney's infamous debate gaffes: His $10,000 bet with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and insistence that undocumented immigrants will “self deport” under the right conditions during the primaries, as well as recent publication of his recent poll-sinking “47 percent” remarks have some wondering if Romney understands what he has to accomplish in the final weeks before Election Day.
The message needs to be economic, say some GOP strategists.
"What I don't think Romney has successfully done yet is make the case he would be better on the economy," veteran Republican strategist Dick Wadhams told the Los Angeles Times. "Part of the reason is that the Romney campaign for too long was trying to make this a referendum on Obama, when it was always going to be a choice election."
"If he doesn't, I don't know what he can do to change the dynamic of this race," Wadhams added.