Former Vermont governor Howard Dean joined a stream of Democrats pre-spinning reporters in the spin room before Tuesday's debate at Hofstra University, but he wasn't quite as on message as the others.

Dean told reporters that Obama is the "underdog" going into tonight's debate -- a fact that he blamed on the press, which "doesn't sleep without a good race and needed a change."

Asked if he thought Obama risked coming out too "hot" in Tuesday's debate to compensate for his lackluster performance two weeks ago in Denver, Dean snorted and said: "Not this president. I don't think 'too hot' is something that can be said in the same sentence as President Obama. He's going to come out tougher. He's not a hot guy, as you know."

Dean was not recruited to appear on Long Island by the Obama campaign -- unlike Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who spoke to reporters right before Dean and was perfectly on message, so much so that an email from the campaign on Romney's "revisionist history" of his record as Massachusetts governor reached reporters' inboxes just as Kerry spoke on the same subject. 

"Mitt Romney has spent a lot of time trying to pretend that he had a great record in the state of Massachusetts," said Kerry, who has played the role of Romney in debate preparations with Obama, including a three-day session in Williamsburg, Va. that ended Tuesday morning. "Let me just tell you: I've spent months now studying Mitt Romney's record. I know everything about it -- more than I ever imagined or might have wanted to -- and I will tell you that the numbers don't add up, the record's not real. This is one of the great charades of all time, in my judgment."