Romney's supporters waxed optimistic that the race is trending in the Republican's direction, even in crucial states like Ohio that Obama won four years ago and where unemployment is on the decline. Portman said he's traversed his home state over the past two weeks on behalf of Romney and likes what he's seeing on the ground.
"The enthusiasm energy is on our side this year. I mean, it's not like 2008 at all," he said.
Both candidates dedicated their weekend to intensive study for the debate; Obama huddled with advisers in Maryland and Romney with his team in Florida.
On the agenda were Iran-Israel tensions, China, terrorism and the war in Afghanistan — all subjects expected to come up Monday in the 90-minute encounter moderated by CBS News' Bob Schieffer. Although polls show the economy is of top concern to most voters, global affairs have cropped up as a key issue in the final weeks due to unrest in Libya, Syria and elsewhere.
Romney paused his preparations to attend church with his wife Sunday morning and to watch his traveling press corps play touch football against his senior staff. The former Massachusetts governor presided over a coin toss on the beach, then gathered his aides to cheer them on.
"That's right, don't worry about injuries guys, this counts. Win," he joked.
Romney didn't talk politics, refusing to answer a question about whether, if elected, he would be open to direct talks with Iran. Questions from reporters about the new poll and Monday's debate likewise went unanswered.
Obama arrived Friday at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains, where he's been holding 12-hour practice sessions, starting with policy discussions at 10 a.m. Obama and his team hold mock debates in the evening in a set designed to look like the one in Boca Raton, Fla., where the two White House hopefuls will square off for the last time. Ron Klain, a former White House aide brought back for debate prep, is playing the role of Schieffer.
Axelrod and Portman spoke on NBC's "Meet the Press," while Emanuel appeared on ABC's "This Week." Graham spoke on "Fox News Sunday" and Rubio on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Hunt reported from Delray Beach, Fla. Associated Press writer Julie Pace in Washington contributed to this report. Follow Josh Lederman on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/joshledermanAP Follow Kasie Hunt at http://www.twitter.com/kasie
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