The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

October 14, 2012

Debate preparation trumps 2012 campaigning Sunday

(Continued)

The campaign did not say in which states the ad would run.

Obama aides have tried to make debate preparations a higher priority for the president this time. Ahead of first debate, some of Obama's practice sessions were cut short, and others were canceled, mainly because of developments in Libya, where four Americans were killed at a U.S. consulate.

Aides say Obama is still dealing with those matters and others. But the urgency that led to interruptions during earlier debate preparations has subsided, and the campaign is trying to ensure that Obama stays more fully engaged in his practice sessions.

Despite questions about the effectiveness of his debate preparation, Obama is working with the same team this time around. Advisers David Axelrod and David Plouffe, along with former White House officials Anita Dunn and Ron Klain, are running the preparations. Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes has been added to the team because the second and third debates involve foreign policy.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., is playing the role of Romney.

One of the priorities during the practice sessions is sharpening the president's retorts to Romney and drawing a sharper contrast between what the campaign says are Romney's shifting positions on key issues.

The president may have picked up a few pointers from Biden.

Obama watched Thursday's debate with aides in a conference room on Air Force One as he traveled back to Washington. The president said little throughout the debate, but did chime in when Biden would deliver a particularly pointed counter to Ryan.

Romney returned to Massachusetts on Saturday night after campaigning in Ohio. He planned to spend most of his two days at home in Belmont getting ready for the debate.

With Romney is Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who's playing Obama in mock debates.

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