The preparations in Williamsburg have taken on an urgency in the aftermath of Obama’s seemingly lethargic performance in that debate, which was widely panned and prompted a surge for Romney in numerous national and swing-state polls. Although Obama had previously been ahead in most polls and the candidates remain neck and neck in most battlegrounds now, Obama and his advisers acknowledge that he must deliver a strong performance Tuesday at Hofstra University to regain momentum.
“I think he is going to make some adjustments on Tuesday,” campaign adviser David Axelrod said on “Fox News Sunday,” adding that Obama will “be aggressive in making the case for his view of where we should go as a country.”
And on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, campaign adviser Robert Gibbs said: “Obviously, the president was disappointed in his own performance. He didn’t meet his expectations.”
Obama arrived at Kingsmill Resort on Saturday morning, and he will remain until Tuesday before flying to Long Island to appear in the second of three televised debates with Romney. Obama is spending time each day preparing with his team, both studying and practicing, according to the campaign. He was “excited” to get out of Washington, according to one campaign adviser speaking on condition of anonymity.
“This is a beautiful, quiet facility where he can still handle his governing responsibilities outside of the distractions of being at home,” the official said, adding that the president is “calm, focused and energized” and is spending time walking outside as well as preparing for the debate.
The team is largely the same as the one that helped him in Nevada: Axelrod, senior White House adviser David Plouffe, longtime adviser Anita Dunn, Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) and Washington lawyer and longtime Democratic debate coach Bob Barnett. National security adviser Ben Rhodes is helping with preparations because of the expected foreign-policy component at Tuesday’s town-hall-style debate. Kerry is playing the role of Romney and Dunn is playing CNN’s Candy Crowley, the debate’s moderator.
“The President is his own harshest critic and he knows Mitt Romney had a better night at the first debate,” campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said Sunday. “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.”
That foreign-policy component is likely to focus on the recent events in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens were killed during a siege on Sept. 11. The administration is under renewed scrutiny amid questions of whether the U.S. consulate there was adequately protected and what the administration has known and said publicly about the origins of the attacks.