Mitt Romney seeks Ohio votes as President Obama preps for debate

By Nancy Benac

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Oct. 13 2012 2:24 p.m. MDT

Both sides also are keenly aware of the importance of this year's series of three presidential debates. Romney's strong performance in the first debate on Oct. 3 gave his campaign a much-needed jolt of energy, and the GOP nominee said his campaign still had post-debate momentum over Obama.

"His campaign is about smaller and smaller things, and our campaign is about bigger and bigger crowds, fighting for a bright future," Romney said on warm, sunny fall day.

Joe Biden's aggressive counterpunch in a debate with Ryan on Thursday cheered Democrats, but some critics thought the vice president overdid the theatrics with his frequent eye rolls, headshakes and broad grins suggesting incredulity.

Obama's campaign has acknowledged he didn't practice enough before his widely panned performance in the first debate. Some sessions were cut short, others canceled altogether.

The campaign has resisted calls from some Democrats to shake up Obama's debate team. Senior advisers David Axelrod and David Plouffe, along with former White House officials Anita Dunn and Ron Klain, still are running the preparations.

The president may have picked up a few pointers from Biden's debate with Ryan. Obama watched the vice presidential debate from aboard Air Force One and would chime in when Biden made a strong point.

"That's a good one," Obama said, according to aides.

Tuesday's town hall-style debate at Hofstra University will have an audience of about 80 undecided voters selected by the Gallup Organization. Moderator Candy Crowley of CNN will select from among questions on foreign and domestic policy submitted by the audience. The final debate, covering foreign policy, will be Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla.

Romney spent nearly four hours Saturday morning at a Columbus hotel preparing for the next debate, then boarded his campaign bus for Shawnee State. From there, the Romney bus headed for Lebanon in southwest Ohio, where he gave a similar speech.

The Obama campaign isn't leaving Ohio unguarded for long: Michelle Obama will visit Delaware and Cleveland on Monday and the president will be in Athens on Wednesday.

To help keep Democratic ads like Freeman's new appeal for Obama up and running in the hotly contested battleground states, the president dispatched Biden to a pair of private fundraisers in Connecticut and New York on Saturday.

Benac reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Julie Pace in Williamsburg, Va., John Seewer in Bowling Green, Ohio, and Kantele Franko in Youngstown, Ohio, contributed to this report. Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/nbenac. Follow Kasie Hunt on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/kasie

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