Obama, Romney bunker down as crucial debate looms
US: A different Barack Obama will show up at the next debate
with Mitt Romney, aides said Sunday, after the president held a
post-mortem of his leaden debut clash with his Republican foe.
Obama bunkered down at a luxury Virginia golf resort prepping for
Tuesday’s encounter with Romney, which has taken on high significance
since the president’s first debate performance sent his poll numbers
Senior Obama aide David Axelrod said Obama had studied video of the
first duel in Denver earlier this month, in which the president appeared
disengaged, unenthusiastic and seemed loath to even look directly at
“Nobody is a harsher critic than the president is of himself,”
Axelrod told “Fox News Sunday.” “I think he’s going to make some
adjustments on Tuesday,” the adviser said, though joining other aides in
declining to offer details on Obama’s strategy for the town hall style
debate, the middle clash of three encounters between the candidates.
“I think he’s going to be aggressive in making the case for his view
of where we should go as a country,” Axelrod said, adding that Obama
would challenge Romney’s shifting political positions, unlike in the
Obama emerged briefly from his hideaway to visit campaign workers at
a local office in Virginia, a swing state he won in 2008, and where he
and Romney are effectively tied ahead of the November 6 election.
“It is going great,” Obama said, when asked by a reporter how his
debate prep was coming along.
With his debate team around him, Obama was staging mock showdowns
with Senator John Kerry playing the role of Romney, ahead of the second
debate at Hofstra University in New York state.
Former White House aide Anita Dunn was playing CNN anchor Candy
Crowley, who will moderate the debate, a campaign official said.
Romney, after worshiping at a Mormon church Sunday, also got in some
debate practice, with aides confident he can put in another strong
display, after the first head-to-head confrontation turned around his
once trailing campaign.
The Republican, a former governor of Massachusetts, is honing his
debate technique with Ohio Senator Rob Portman standing in for the
“I think President Obama is going to come out swinging. He’s going to
have to compensate for a poor first debate,” Portman told ABC
television’s “This Week.” With the candidates off the trail, it was left
to high-profile supporters to hurl campaign grenades on the Sunday
Republicans stepped up their assault on Obama over the raid on the US
consulate in Benghazi on September 11 that killed four Americans,
including US ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens.
Critics say the administration, which initially called the incident
was a “spontaneous” attack but now admits it was an organized terror
strike, is trying to deflect blame from Obama ahead of the November 6
election. “Either they are misleading the American people or (are)
incredibly incompetent,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on CBS’s
“Face the Nation” program.
The attack came after a week in which a State Department official
said a request for beefed up security at US posts in Libya was denied.
The White House says Obama was never informed about the appeal for
help. But Republicans charge that after a Democratic convention that
lauded Obama over the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden, his
administration is unwilling to admit that Al-Qaeda is still a serious
“When something goes bad, they deny, they deceive and they delay. And
the truth is we’re not safer,” said Graham.
Democratic lawmaker Elijah Cummings accused Romney of using the death
of Stevens as a “political football.”
Romney also came under fire, in a possible preview of the debate,
over exactly how he would pay for his across-the-board 20 percent tax
cut without further inflating the deficit or cutting deductions for
middle class families.
Romney adviser Ed Gillespie said the Republican candidate did not
want to discuss the arithmetic around the tax cut to avoid locking
congressional Democrats and Republicans into entrenched positions.
But the Obama team says Romney will have no choice but to do away
with some cherished deductions, such as those for mortgage interest or
charitable contributions to make the plan add up, meaning more pain for
the middle class.