Enjoying leads in key swing states with the presidential debates less than two weeks away, the Obama campaign is actively working to lower expectations by talking up Mitt Romney’s skills.
“I think it’s always a big moment when two candidates get to sit side by side and answer the same question,” said Robert Gibbs, a senior adviser to the campaign, on “Fox News Sunday.” “Mitt Romney I think has an advantage, because he’s been through 20 of these debates in the primaries over the last year. He even bragged that he was declared the winner in 16 of those debates. So I think, in that sense, having been through this much more recently than President Obama, I think he starts with an advantage.”
Romney, meanwhile, is facing criticism and second-guessing from his allies about his campaign strategy, in the wake of several high-profile stumbles and unfavorable polling lately. The vice presidential pick of Paul Ryan and the Republican convention failed to swing the race in his favor, and conventional wisdom has it that the debates are his last big opportunity to fundamentally alter the contest.
Ironically, the Romney campaign is singing a similar tune as Gibbs, seeking to calm nerves and halt the downward-spiral narrative by promising a strong performance in his three debates with Obama, which are scheduled for Oct. 3, Oct. 16 and Oct. 22.
“We’re going to be ready — very ready to face the president and we’re going to win,” a top Romney aide said recently, as quoted by BuzzFeed.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.