DENVER, Colo. — Speaking to more than 5,000 supporters at a rally 48 hours before the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney gently mocked the horserace punditry that has permeated analysis leading up to the face-off — an apparent move to lower the stakes of a debate many see as key to any potential comeback for his candidacy.
"We're gonna have a debate, and people want to know who's gonna win," he told the Colorado crowd, adopting a slightly sarcastic tone. "Who's gonna score the punches, and who's gonna make the biggest difference in the arguments they make. And there's gonna be all the scoring of winning and losing."
Romney went on, "In my view, it's not so much about winning and losing, or even the people themselves, the president and myself. It's about something bigger than that."
As the debate has grown closer, the Romney campaign has had to walk a fine line — half-heartedly exercising the longheld campaign custom of lowering expectations for their candidate, while simultaneously pointing to it as a potential pivot point in a race that has recently swung in President Obama's favor.
By seeking to elevate his framing of the debate, Romney is both hedging against a performance that pundits might deem inadequate, while also acknowledging its race-changing potential.
"These debates are an opportunity for each of us to describe the pathway forward for America that we would choose," Romney said. "And the American people are gonna have to make their choice about what kind of America they want. And so I look forward to these debates."
He added, "I'm delighted that we're gonna have three debates that'll be a conversation with the American people that will span almost an entire month. We'll get to describe our respective views. And I believe the people of Colorado will choose a better way forward for our country."
McKay Coppins is a senior writer for the BuzzFeed News politics team, and the author of The Wilderness, about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.
Contact McKay Coppins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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