VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Aides to President Barack Obama are sparing nothing — including their boss's balance — in an almost comical attempt to lower expectations for the president in next week's debate with Mitt Romney.
On Air Force One today, traveling press secretary Jen Psaki was asked by reporters what the worst thing that could happen to him on Wednesday night.
"Well, he could fall off the stage," she replied of the president.
"The president will have some time to prepare and he's been doing some studying, but it is certainly less than we have anticipated because of events in the Middle East, because of his busy travel schedule — because of just the constraints of governing," she added. "So it is less than we originally planned." Psaki lamented the president's "loquaciousness" and argued that Romney is the most prepared debater in presidential debate history — on account of his preparation sessions going back to May.
"Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has been preparing earlier and with more focus than any presidential candidate in modern history," she said. "Not John F. Kennedy. Not President Bill Clinton. Not President George Bush. Not Ronald Reagan has prepared as much as he has. So there's no question that he will have a lead on how prepared he is."
She continued by saying the media will be on the lookout for a "comeback kid" story to write after the debates, saying that could benefit Romney, who is looking at the debates as a moment to regain momentum.
"We know there are going to be twists and turns and ups and downs in this campaign. We know we'll have them in the next 40 days as well," she said. "Mitt Romney has set it up and his team have set it up where they want the debate to be that moment for him. They fully expect that moment is going to be their turning point. We know people want to write a comeback kid story, so we’ll see if that happens."
Some more from the White House pool report:
On Romney and other Republican accusations that Obama will lie during the debates:
"If Mitt Romney were Pinocchio, his nose would be reaching from Virginia to Ohio with the number of lies he's told.
"This is the kind of ridiculous, absurd and unproven accusations by the Romney team that are just meant to distract."
On whether Obama is preparing for ways Romney will try to get under his skin, Jen declined to "preview" debate prep but said, "The president is familiar with his own loquaciousness and his tendency to give long substantive answers."
Carney weighed in too, offering his observations from both this year and 2008, when he was still working as a journalist for Time Magazine. He said Obama won his party's nomination in 2008 "in some ways in spite of his debate performance," whereas Romney won his party's nod this year "because of them."