Campaigns Beat Up On Their Own Ahead Of Debates

Melissa Block and Audie Cornish talk about "the expectations limbo" during this campaign season. Both presidential campaigns are trying to downplay their candidate's performance in the first presidential debate.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Now, despite all that debate training, if you listen to the campaigns, you might think the candidates are preparing to fail on Wednesday night.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

That's right. Every four years in the lead-up to presidential debates, we've come to expect a game of sorts. Let's call it the expectations limbo.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIMBO ROCK")

BLOCK: That's when campaign surrogates suddenly beat up on their own guy. So how low can they go?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM: The president is going to lose the first debate. He will lose it. Mark my words.

BLOCK: That's Obama supporter Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan on her Current TV show last week. And in the game of setting expectations, Granholm doesn't just preemptively declare the president the loser, she celebrates Mitt Romney.

GRANHOLM: His debating experience is fresh. He's in shape. He's effective at making strategic points. Plus, Romney has to change the race dynamics. And believe me, make no mistake, he is practicing 20 ways to do that.

CORNISH: Twenty ways. Now Republicans can play this game, too. Here's vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan yesterday on "Fox News Sunday" undercutting his boss and praising the president.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY")

PAUL RYAN: Look, President Obama is a very - he's a very gifted speaker. The man's been on the national stage for many years. He's an experience debater. He's done these kinds of debates before. This is Mitt's first time on this kind of a stage.

CORNISH: But don't tell that to Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Romney surrogate. Yesterday, on CBS's "Face The Nation," he suggested Romney's debate performance on Wednesday will be a game changer.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FACE THE NATION")

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: This whole race is going to be turned upside down come Thursday morning.

BLOCK: Known for his straight talk, Christie might have missed the memo on the expectations game.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FACE THE NATION")

CHRISTIE: Thursday morning, you're all going to be scratching your heads and saying, wow, we have a barn burner now for the next 33 days.

CORNISH: It's likely President Obama doesn't agree with that spin. Still, he's not above playing down his own debating abilities.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I know that most in the media are speculating already on who's gonna have the best zingers. I don't know about that, you know. Whose gonna put the most points on the board. No, no. Governor Romney, he's a professional. I'm just OK.

CORNISH: The expectations limbo, where just okay wins the game.

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