Book: Strong doubts before Hofstra debate

President Obama said before his second presidential debate against Mitt Romney, “I just don’t know if I can do this.”

Top advisers sat down with Obama in Williamsburg, Va., and prepped him 48 hours before the next debate at Hofstra University, a new book reveals. Then-Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) acted as Romney in debate prep.

“Guys, what are we going to do?” David Plouffe, one of Obama’s closest advisers, asked after one mock session. “That was a disaster,” referring to Obama's poor performance in the first debate.

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“If we don’t fix this,” Plouffe said, “we could lose the whole f-----g election.”

They staged an intervention, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann write in their upcoming book “Double Down.”

"Mr. President, you need to embrace this event. What’s wrong with you?" John Heilemann said Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” recounting what the advisers said to Obama.

The two authors write in their book Obama erupted into a 10-minute soliloquy about how he’s not wired for the next debate.

Here’s the excerpt:

“You keep telling me I can’t spend too much time defending my record, and that I should talk about my plans,” he said. “But my plans aren’t anything like the plans I ran on in 2008. I had a universal-health-care plan then. Now I’ve got what? A manufacturing plan? What am I going to do on education? What am I gonna do on energy. There’s not much there. I can’t tell you that ‘okay, I woke up today and I knew I needed to do better, and I’ll do better,” Obama said. “I am wired in a different way this even requires,” Obama paused. “I just don’t know if I can do this.”

Obama’s advisers examined polls that showed voters could forgive the president for his performance in the first presidential debate in Denver, as long as he came out strong in the second one.

The Denver debate marked a low point in Obama’s reelection campaign because Romney emerged from it trouncing Obama.

Obama delivered a stronger performance in the Hofstra debate on Oct. 16, just a few weeks before Election Day.