Pre-Debate Spinning Has Begun

Aides to Obama and Romney try to downplay expectations ahead of Wednesday's debate.

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The expectations game has begun in preparation for Wednesday’s first debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

After savaging each other for months, each campaign is now trying to lower expectations for its candidate and raise expectations for the other side in an effort to make sure that the opposition will disappoint no matter what happens.

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Romney adviser Beth Myers said Obama will be the favorite in the debates, which start in Denver Wednesday and continue in New York and Florida later in October. “This will be the eighth one-on-one presidential debate of his [Obama’s] political career,” Myers wrote in a memo to Romney surrogates obtained by USA Today.

“For Mitt Romney, it will be his first.” Myers said Obama is a “universally acclaimed public speaker.”

Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for Obama, was asked by a reporter to describe the worst thing that could happen to him and she said, “Well, he could fall off the stage.”

Obama aides note that Romney participated in 20 debates during the GOP primaries this year, and Psaki added that Romney “has been preparing earlier and with more focus than any presidential candidate in modern history. Not John F. Kennedy, not President Bill Clinton, not President George Bush, not Ronald Reagan has prepared as much as he has. So there’s no question that he will have a lead on how prepared he is.”

All this indicates that Team Obama and Team Romney will be extremely aggressive in trying to shape perceptions of the debate in its immediate aftermath, hoping that the media and the public will be susceptible to such public relations efforts.

Chances are that the media center in Denver, where hundreds of reporters are expected to congregate for next week’s encounter, will also be packed with campaign officials and surrogates for both sides. Their goal will be to put the most favorable spin possible on what their candidate does.

Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com and on Facebook and Twitter.