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Obama "Confident," "Passionate" Before Debate, Aides Say

But aides try to downplay expectations that he'll come out swinging.

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HEMPSTEAD, New York — President Barack Obama is "confident" and "passionate" about tonight's debate with Mitt Romney, said deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter today.

Speaking in the media filing center less than six hours before Obama has a chance to redeem himself after his dismal performance in Denver, Cutter pointed to a more animated candidate.

"He's coming into this confident in what he has accomplished over the last four years, and passionate about what he wants to accomplish over the next four years," she said.

Obama's traveling press secretary Jen Psaki said the biggest thing that has changed since the last debate is the benefit of hindsight, and the ability to review the tape on his poor performance to try to improve it.

Cutter tried to downplay expectations — many set by the Obama campaign — that the president will come out swinging tonight, saying he will instead try to lay out his vision for a second term.

"He's not here to score punches on Mitt Romney, he's coming here to describe what a second term of an Obama presidency would look like," Cutter said.

Obama has repeatedly been criticized from both sides for failing to lay out a specific vision for what he would do with four more years in the White House. On Monday, Democratic strategists Stanley Greenberg and James Carville distributed a memo calling on the Obama campaign to plainly broadcast such a vision to the American people or risk losing the election.

"He's not looking to come in here and battle it out," Cutter maintained, perhaps because predicting a bloodbath is impolite. "He's looking to come in here and describe what he wants to do for this country, where he wants to take the country in the next four years. That's the number one goal."

"We'll do our best to keep Mitt Romney honest," Cutter said, "but, you know, that could take all night."