* Christie predicts meeting will turn race 'upside down'
* Romney running mate Ryan admits campaign missteps
* Obama declares his debating skills are 'just OK'
By Samuel P. Jacobs and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON/LAS VEGAS, Sept 30 Three days before
the first presidential debate of the 2012 campaign, allies of
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney sought to influence expectations on
Sunday, with the president describing his debating skills as
The Democratic incumbent and the Republican former governor
of Massachusetts face off in Denver, Colorado, on Wednesday for
their first of three televised debates.
Advisers to both men have tried to lower expectations for
their respective candidates, and Obama got into the action
during a rally in Nevada.
"Gov. Romney ... he's a good debater. I'm just OK," the
president told a crowd of about 11,000 outside a local high
"What I'm most concerned about is having a serious
discussion about what we need to do to keep the country growing
and restore security for hard-working Americans. That's what
people are going to be listening for," he said.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie predicted fellow
Republican Romney's performance would alter the course of the
campaign. Polls show Obama with a slight edge nationally and in
critical swing states that will decide the Nov. 6 election.
"This whole race is going to turn upside down come Thursday
morning," Christie told CBS' "Face the Nation."
His comments strayed from the script of both campaigns,
which have tried to play down their own candidate's chances and
talk up their opponent's, thus making it easier to claim victory
or explain a defeat after the face-off.
"I think what we need is a big and bold performance on
Wednesday night, and that's what he's going to give us,"
Christie said of Romney on ABC's "This Week."
Romney comes into the debate still trying to recover from a
leaked video where the former private equity executive described
nearly half of Americans as dependent upon government and who
view themselves as victims.
"We've had some missteps, but at the end of the day, the
choice is really clear," Romney's vice presidential running mate
Paul Ryan told "Fox News Sunday."
Ryan tried to lower the stakes for Romney's debate
performance. "I don't think any one event is going to make or
break this campaign," he said.
Ryan said Romney would give a major foreign policy speech in
the days after the debate.
Obama's advisers said the president was not focused on
scoring points or coming up with zingers to use against his
"He wants to speak directly to the families - the people who
are on their couches at home, having snacks, drinking a beer,
drinking soda, whatever it is, and tuning in for the first time
- and that's who he's speaking directly to," campaign
spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Air Force One.
Obama, who is in Nevada for intense debate preparation, was
accompanied by White House adviser David Plouffe, campaign
strategist David Axelrod, chief of staff Jack Lew, economic
adviser Gene Sperling and speechwriter Jon Favreau.
The White House and Obama's campaign are guarding against
complacency, despite their strength in the polls.
"We're not going to win battleground states by 10 or 12
points. This race is going to tighten," Plouffe said on NBC's
"Meet the Press."
Romney remained in Boston for private meetings, including
debate preparation, at his campaign headquarters.
Not all of Romney's hours have been devoted to studying and
sparring with his debate partner, U.S. Senator Rob Portman.
Romney attended a party Saturday evening at the Wellesley,
Massachusetts, home of his finance chairman, Spencer Zwick.
With a stretched Hummer limousine blaring party music and
several school buses parked outside the home, chants of "Mitt!"
could be heard from within. Romney departs for Denver on Monday.
His wife, Ann, will campaign in Nevada and Ryan will embark
on a bus tour of eastern Iowa on Monday.
Both are swing states where victories would be critical for
the path to the presidency.