Campaign advisers to U.S. President Barack Obama promised on Sunday he would be more aggressive and energetic on Tuesday in his second debate against Republican challenger Mitt Romney after a passive, heavily criticized performance in their first showdown.
Since that first debate in Denver on Oct. 3, polls indicate Mr. Romney has erased Mr. Obama’s lead heading into the Nov. 6 election. Mr. Obama and Mr., Romney debate again on Tuesday at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. The third and final presidential debate will take place on Oct. 22 in Florida.
“Obviously, the president was disappointed in his own performance. He didn’t meet his expectations,” Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs told the CNN program State of the Union, referring to the first debate.
“He knew when he walked off that stage and he also knew as he’s watched the tape of that debate that he’s got to be more energetic. I think you’ll see somebody who’s very passionate about the choice that our country faces – and putting that choice in front of voters,” Gibbs added.
The Romney team sounded unimpressed. “Well, the president can change his style. He can change his tactics. He can’t change his record. And he can’t change his policies. And that’s what this election is about,” Romney campaign adviser Ed Gillespie told CNN.
“I think the race is very close. I think the wind is at Governor Romney’s back, and there’s clearly momentum. You can see it on the trail, you can see it in the data,” Mr. Gillespie said in a separate appearance on Fox News Sunday.
In contrast to Mr. Obama’s listless debate performance, Vice-President Joe Biden was far more assertive in his debate on Thursday night with Mr. Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan in Danville, Kentucky.
Another Obama campaign adviser, David Axelrod, told the Fox News Sunday program: “I think he’s going to be aggressive in making the case for his view of where we should go as a country, a country that’s built around a growing, thriving middle class, not this top-down theory that Governor Romney has.”
“But the other thing he’s going to certainly do – I mean, we saw Governor Romney sort of serially walk away from his own proposals – certainly the president is going to be willing to challenge him on it as we saw the vice president challenge Paul Ryan,” Mr. Axelrod said.
Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney are neck and neck in opinion polls, but there is one area in which the incumbent appears to have a big advantage: those who have already cast their ballots.
Mr. Obama leads Mr. Romney by 59 percent to 31 percent among early voters, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling data compiled in recent weeks.
Seven per cent of those surveyed said they had already voted either in person or by mail.
The accuracy of Reuters/Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. For the 6,704 people who were asked whether they had voted yet, the credibility interval was 1.3 points. For the 361 people who replied that they had already cast their ballots, the credibility interval was 10 points.
The online poll is another sign that early voting is likely to play a bigger role this year than in 2008, when roughly one in three voters cast a ballot before Election Day. Voting is already under way in some form in at least 40 states.
Both the Obama and Romney teams are urging supporters to vote as soon as possible so the campaigns can focus their door-knocking and phone-calling operations on those who are still undecided or need more prodding to get to the polls.
Early voting was a big part of Mr. Obama’s victory over Republican John McCain in 2008, and his campaign aims to repeat its success this year.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll indicates the campaign’s efforts appear to be paying off, although its advantage could erode as Election Day approaches.
The Obama campaign says it is leading among early voters in Iowa and Ohio, and trailing by a smaller margin than 2008 in several other swing states. It expects its early voting efforts will help the campaign weather a blitz of negative ads expected to saturate the airwaves in battleground states in the final weeks before Nov. 6.
The Romney campaign says it is leading or even with Mr. Obama among early voters in several closely fought battleground states, including Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Nevada and New Hampshire. The campaign says it has seen a spike in volunteering and voter enthusiasm among Republicans since Mr. Romney’s strong debate performance against Mr. Obama on Oct. 3.