President Barack Obama said his preparation for the second presidential debate on Tuesday was “going great” as his aides promised a more “energetic” and “aggressive” performance.
Mr Obama has seen his lead in opinion polls collapse since the first debate with Mitt Romney 10 days ago, when he was widely seen as having given a lacklustre and listless performance. Although the race remains tight, some national polls have since given Mr Romney a slight edge.
Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary and now an adviser to the Obama campaign, told CNN’s State of the Union television programme on Sunday that the president “was disappointed in his own performance. He didn’t meet his expectations.”The next debate will be on Tuesday at Hofstra University on Long Island, with the final debate – which will be exclusively about foreign policy – on the following Monday in Florida.
On Sunday afternoon, during a visit to a campaign office in Williamsburg, Virginia, Mr Obama replied to a question about his studying with: “It’s going great.” This contrasted sharply with the almost flippant public responses he gave when asked about his homework in the run-up to the first debate.
He added: “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 is very passionate about the choice that our country faces – and putting that choice in front of voters.”
David Axelrod, another Obama campaign aide, said that in the upcoming debate: “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.”
Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Mr Axelrod, added that in the last debate: “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.”
Romney campaign officials denied that the candidate had substantially changed tack.
“He is running on the same platform he has run on through the Republican party primary. The country is a centre-right country. They want to have less federal spending. They want to get us on a path to a balanced budget,” Ed Gillespie, senior adviser to the Romney campaign, told CNN.
Speaking on Fox, Mr Gillespie added: “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.”
After a week when the polls have largely moved against him, Mr Obama received some good news on Sunday with a new Public Policy Polling survey showing him 5 percentage points ahead in Ohio, the state that many analysts believe will be crucial in the election. That was a slight increase from his lead in the same poll two weeks ago, and confirms other polls which have shown him performing well in Ohio.
According to the data, about 20 per cent of respondents in Ohio said they had voted already under early voting provisions and of that group, Mr Obama was leading by 76-24. Among those still to vote, Mr Romney leads 45-41.
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