DEBATE NIGHT: Campaigns Get Final Spin In

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(CNN) — In a spate of expectation-setting ahead of Wednesday night’s debate, both campaigns offered their predictions for the first meeting between the two presidential candidates, with President Barack Obama’s team arguing the first session between the candidates will be about laying details before voters, and Team Romney looking for unfiltered access to those who remain undecided.

Obama’s deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter, appearing on CNN’s “Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien,” said the candidate who offers specifics in the debate will ultimately be named the winner.

“At the end of the day, I think that the winner is going to be declared by the American people based on what these two candidates say and who lays out a vision for the future. Some specifics and policy details,” Cutter said.

In a memo distributed earlier in the day, Cutter wrote that so-called “zingers” would not determine who voters see as coming out on top.

“Instead, they’re going to pick the winner on substance,” she wrote. “They’re looking for the candidates to lay out specific, concrete policies to move this country forward, not back to the same policies that created the crisis in the first place and punished the middle class. Tonight provides an opportunity for both President Obama and Mitt Romney to do that.”

Both Obama and Romney’s campaigns have been attempting to tamp down on expectations ahead of the first presidential debate, hoping the lower bar will fuel the appearance that each candidate has surpassed expectations when the debate concludes.

Cutter did her part in playing the expectations game Wednesday, saying she thought the “expectations are probably working a little bit against us and more for Mitt Romney right now.”

Barbara Comstock, a senior adviser to Mitt Romney’s campaign, also offered a debate prediction on “Starting Point,” saying the event would give Romney a chance to speak to voters without the filter of the media.

“This will be the opportunity for Mitt Romney to talk directly to the American people without that filter and tell them about his plan for the next four years,” she said.

The mainstream press, Comstock said, was already poised to give the trophy to Obama.

“I think the press will probably — no matter what happens — they can already write their stories, many of the mainstream press,” she said.

“They’ve been cheerleading for Barack Obama for weeks now and I think they’ll continue, but I’m not concerned about that,” Comstock continued.

And Brett O’Donnell, Romney’s debate coach, added his candidate “has to make the debate about the president’s economic policies and he’s gotta connect those to the economic conditions we’re in now.”

“Right now, people believe the economy is bad, but they’re not blaming the president for it,” O’Donnell said on “Starting Point.” “Tonight, Governor Romney — while standing face to face with President Obama — has to connect those two things.”

O’Donnell warned both candidates against becoming defensive, as “both of them, when they are put on their heels, tend to make mistakes.”


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