On the Sunday talk shows, Team Romney sent conflicting messages about the upcoming presidential debate on Wednesday night, both downplaying the debate’s importance and promising a stellar performance by Mitt Romney that will reshape the race.
The campaign’s dueling narratives show the tricky place the Romney campaign finds itself in; Romney needs to show he can turn the race around, but also needs to avoid the dangers of setting the bar too high.
On “Fox News Sunday,” vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan portrayed Obama as a seasoned debater and Romney as the underdog newcomer.
“I don’t think one event is going to make or break this campaign,” Ryan said. “Look, President Obama is a very — he’s a very gifted speaker. 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.”
But on three separate Sunday shows, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), a top Romney surrogate, promised an excellent performance that would reset the race.
“He’s going to [shake things up],” Christie said. “Every time Mitt Romney has been confronted in this campaign with one of these moments, he has come through in the debate and performed extraordinarily well. … So I have absolute confidence that when we get to Thursday morning, you’re going to be shaking your head and saying it’s a brand new race with 33 days to go.”
“Come Thursday morning the entire narrative of this campaign is going to change,” he said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”
Team Obama, more confident in their candidate’s standing, is roundly setting the bar low and talking up Romney’s debate skills.
“Listen, he’s prepared more than any candidate, I think maybe in history, certainly in recent memory,” said White House senior adviser David Plouffe, appearing on “This Week” after Christie. “So we believe Governor Romney — he’s been a good debater in the past, he’s very prepared, he’s got all these clever zingers and lines in his pocket. So we understand he’ll probably have a good night on Wednesday night.”
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.