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For Obama and Romney, time to play 'The Debate Expectations Game' (+video)

Team Obama characterizes Mitt Romney as a fantastic debater. Team Romney notes the president's public-speaking prowess. Both sides are enumerating challenges for their guy ahead of the first debate, in hopes of then exceeding expectations.

By Staff writer / September 28, 2012

Both campaigns for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are enumerating challenges for their guy ahead of the first presidential debate next Wednesday.

Evan Vucci/AP, Stephen M. Katz/The Virginian-Pilot/AP

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Team Obama says Mitt Romney is a fantastic debater.

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Monitor correspondent Liz Marlantes has three suggestions for Mitt Romney's presidential debate preparation.

Obama strategist David Axelrod, channeling former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s praise of Mr. Romney in a memo released Friday morning, hails Romney as “as good as it gets in debating. He is poised, prepared, smart, strategic.”

Just hold your horses, says Team Romney. It’s President Obama who’s the master debater. Mr. Obama is a “universally acclaimed public speaker and has substantial debate experience under his belt,” according to a memo, first reported by CNN, from Romney senior adviser Beth Myers.  

In other words, both campaigns are taking care to tell the press why their candidate is going to stink up the joint next Wednesday at the first presidential debate.

Sound bizarre? That’s because it is.

Right before engaging in the exact political voodoo he’s describing, Mr. Axelrod actually states what both campaigns are doing: “Let’s be honest – both campaigns are trying to set expectations for their candidate's performances.”

If everybody was expecting Romney or Obama to turn up a C performance, the thinking goes, a B- looks pretty good – and a B+ looks great.

So how do you ratchet down expectations? You make the case that the other guy should win.

Romneyworld says Obama beat his 2008 opponent, Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, at every debate and has seven one-on-one presidential debates under his belt already. The first point is arguable – Obama’s previous debate performances were not exactly shining – but the second is not.

Moreover, Romney wants us to believe that Obama has a massive natural advantage on the debate stage.

“Voters already believe – by a 25-point margin – that President Obama is likely to do a better job in these debates. Given President Obama's natural gifts and extensive seasoning under the bright lights of the debate stage, this is unsurprising,” Ms. Myers wrote.

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