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Obama heads to Denver for presidential debate with Romney

October 03, 2012|By Kathleen Hennessey
  • Workers at the University of Denver's Ritchie Center prepare the stage for the first debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney.
Workers at the University of Denver's Ritchie Center prepare the… (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)

DENVER -- Done with most of the reading, the staged sparring and reviewing the video, President Obama emerged from his three-day debate camp on Wednesday to see if all the practice would do the trick.

The president was due to land in Denver at around 2 p.m. local time for his first matchup against GOP challenger Mitt Romney. Once there, his campaign said, he'll walk through the debate site at the University of Denver to make himself comfortable with the stage, the lectern and the overall scene of what could be a turning point in his pursuit of a second term. (Romney is also scheduled for a walk-through.)

Obama may also do some last-minute preparation, the campaign said, but he'll largely be trying to get some down time to relax before the debate, which is scheduled to begin with a question for the president. (The 90-minute face-off is set for at 6 p.m. PDT.)

After a campaign rally in Reno, First Lady Michelle Obama is also set to head to Denver to watch. Wednesday is the couple's 20th wedding anniversary -- although, not surprisingly, they've delayed the celebratory dinner until the weekend.

DEBATE QUIZ: Who said it?

Obama and his team have been focused on the main event, even as they've tried to lower expectations for the much-hyped debate: They aren't going for zingers. The president is going to stick to his current script. He's a bit rusty, not having debated in almost four years. Even the president dubbed himself just an "OK" debater.

But the team is undoubtedly anxious about what curveballs may be coming.

Will Romney manage to work in a dig on Libya in a debate that is supposed to be about domestic issues? Will moderator Jim Lehrer bring up a 2007 video clip of then-Sen. Obama talking about race and Hurricane Katrina -- video that rocketed around conservative websites on Tuesday?

Obama's team has been guarded about the mechanics of its preparation, mindful that their GOP counterparts have been mining every phrase for hints of strategy.

The president, a night owl, kept at his practice well into the evening, although he also managed to break out for some outings. On Tuesday, Obama visited Hoover Dam, and on Monday he was at one of his campaign offices, where he joked that the debate preparation regimen was "a drag."

He'll know Wednesday night if it was worth it.

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