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Presidential debate 2012: Both sides spinning early

October 03, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli

It's debate night in America, to borrow the hype-tastic monicker of one of the major cable networks: the first face-to-face meeting between President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney. That means 90 minutes of what are likely to be the most substantive exchanges between the candidates to date, sandwiched between hours of spin.

Both parties moved into expectations-setting mode long before the much-anticipated Q&A session in Denver, but nonetheless offered a fresh helping to start the day Wednesday.

From Team Obama, a memo from deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter warning of the "promises and contradictions" she expects to hear from the Republican nominee.

"Romney can use tonight’s debate to fill in those details and finally, for the first time, explain his proposals or readjust his positions. Or he can spend 90 minutes doing what he does best: attacking the president, distorting his own record, and avoiding any and all details on his plans for this country," Cutter wrote.

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The memo anticipated some of Romney's answers and engaged in some prebuttals. An accompanying video also pointed supporters of the president to a website the campaign will use Wednesday night to offer instant fact-checks.

As has been typical of the Democrats' campaign, Cutter concluded the memo by suggesting that Romney "is likely to be called the winner by pundits."

"But the real test will be the reaction of the voters watching at home," she added, voters who she said believe that Romney has "fallen short" in providing more details about what he'll do as president.

Republicans began the day by attempting to pit Democrat against Democrat. From the Romney campaign came a video using Vice President Joe Biden's comment Tuesday that the "middle class has been buried the last four years."

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"We couldn't have said it better ourselves," the campaign said. Romney was also shown saying at a recent event that "this Obama economy has crushed the middle class."

The Republican National Committee had a video of its own, using clips of then-candidate Barack Obama during the 2008 debates to make the case that he has broken promises to the American people on energy, healthcare, taxes and other issues. The kicker is rich: a clip of former President Clinton, then campaigning against Obama in the 2008 primaries, saying, "This thing is the biggest fairy tale I have ever seen."

Clinton is campaigning for Obama in New Hampshire on Wednesday, while Obama's 2008 foe, John McCain, campaigns in Florida for Romney.

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