The Obama campaign made clear this weekend that President Obama will be more aggressive in his second debate with Mitt Romney, hinting that he will go after the Republican presidential nominee at several angles — from women’s issues to Romney’s tax plan and his tenure at Bain Capital.
“I think he’s going to be aggressive in making the case for his view of where we should go as a country,” senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Axelrod argued that Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan failed during a Sept. 30 appearance on Fox, then during his debate last week to detail how Romney would pay for his $5 trillion tax plan.
“So, we’re going to give Gov. Romney another chance on Tuesday to try and square this impossible circle,” Axelrod said.
He also said Obama plans to be more aggressive and is making “adjustments” before the debate, then seemed to refer to Romney’s investment capital career before entering politics.
“He is a great salesman,” Axelrod said. “That is what he did as a professional, he is very good at it.”
Romney campaign adviser Ed Gillespie said Romney will handle the expected attack by doing what he did in the first debate “
“He’s going to talk about his agenda,” Gillespie said on Fox. “He’s going to talk about his policies. … Whatever political tactic the president settles on as being in his best interest for the debate, he can’t change his record and can’t change his policies.”
Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who has played Obama during Romney’s debate rehearsals, said Sunday he also expects the president to “come out swinging.”
The Ohio senator told ABC’s “This Week” such a tactic will be consistent with what the Obama campaign has been doing the entire election cycle, running a “highly negative” ad campaign.
“They’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars around the country, including a lot in Ohio, mischaracterizing Gov. Romney’s positions and misrepresenting him,” he said. “And I think you’ll see that again at the debate on Tuesday night.”
The debate will be held at Hofstra University, in Long Island, N.Y.
The president has acknowledged giving a lackluster performance during the first debate, Oct. 3, in Denver, and appears eager to even the score and erase the bounce in polls Romney got after his well-received effort.
The final debate is Oct. 22 in Florida, just two weeks before Election Day in a tight race that likely will be decided by who wins in several battleground states including Ohio, Nevada, Florida and Virginia.
Campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki this weekend appeared even more clear about where Obama would attack.
“Gov. Romney has been making pitches all of his life and he knows how to say what people want to hear whether that was during his time at Bain or during the dozens of town halls he did during the primary,” she said Saturday.
Psaki argued Ryan left Romney vulnerable on the issue of women’s health care by failing to explain the tax cut, which she said has left female voters “worried about their ability to make choices about their own health care.”
On Sunday, Psaki pointed out women’s health care issues were left out of the first debate, which again appeared to suggest Obama would raise the topic this time.
“The American people should expect to see a much more energized President Obama making a passionate case for why he is a better choice for the middle class,” she told Fox News. “He will continue to hold Mitt Romney’s feet to the fire on the facts about his policies, whether that is his $5 trillion tax cut plan that will leave the burden on the middle class, his plans to voucherize Medicare or his belief that women should not be able to make choices about their own health care.”
Obama critics have said that Biden’s aggressive performance against Ryan is exactly what the campaign needed.
However, top Democrats say the Obama campaign realizes that in Tuesday’s debate, which will feature actual voters in a town hall format, the president has to be careful not to mimic Biden too closely or he risks coming across as too negative.
Obama has been hunkering down for three full days of debate prep at a resort in Williamsburg, Va. Romney practiced for several hours Saturday in Ohio with Portman before making two campaign stops then returning to Massachusetts for more practice.
It’s no accident that Obama chose this battleground of Virginia for debate preparations again. In the run-up to the first debate, Obama did his prep sessions in Nevada, which enabled him to visit a campaign office there to thank his volunteers and fire up his base at a large rally in Las Vegas.
This time he spent his time holed up at the popular Kingsmill Resort along the James River, which aides say he values for its ability to provide some quiet time. His prep sessions took place in the main building of the resort, while the president is staying in a house on the campus.
The sessions consisted of a combination of studying up on what Romney and Ryan have said in the debates so far and on the campaign trail, in addition to actual practice.
Despite the weak performance in Denver, campaign officials have suggested there has been no major shakeup to the sessions.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., once again playing Romney in the mock sessions, though there has been at least one minor change.
Ben Rhodes, a national security aide at the White House, has been added to these sessions because the second debate will feature both foreign and domestic policy.