The Slatest

How the Obama Camp Is Trying To Temper Debate Expectations

President Obama walks to Air Force One from Marine One at John F. Kennedy International AIrport September 25, 2012 in New York

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/GettyImages.

President Obama and Mitt Romney will square off next week in Denver for the first of three presidential debates before this November’s election. Just in case Democrats, already buoyed by recent polling numbers, are getting a little too excited for a dominant performance from the president, Team Obama is trying to keep their expectations in check.

How can aides go about doing that? For starters, by voicing concerns their boss will be at a disadvantage when he takes the stage.


Here’s the opening of a Los Angeles Times article from today, headlined: “Obama getting less debate practice than Romney”: 

President Obama has blocked out three days to prepare for the October debates, but with the constant pressures that come with one of the world’s most important jobs, aides worry he may not get enough practice at the podium.


The debate retreat, scheduled to start Sunday in Henderson, Nev., a suburb that sprawls away from Las Vegas, includes time for the daily battery of presidential meetings, leaving room for three afternoon debate sessions — if no crises flare up. Obama has already canceled some debate preparation because of events in the Middle East, said Jen Psaki, his campaign press secretary.

“He has had to balance the management of world events, governing, time out campaigning,” she said. “He’ll have less time than we anticipated to sharpen and cut down his tendency to give long, substantive answers.”

Psaki’s quote is actually a twofer: It manages to both keep expectations for Obama’s debate performance in check (because of his lack of prep time), while also reminding voters of the reason he may be be less than prepared come next Wednesday (because he’s got a pretty full plate as commander-in-chief).