Report: Obama crams for debates, works to keep answers concise

President Obama is cramming for his three prime-time debates with Mitt Romney next month by practicing brief and concise answers, senior campaign strategist David Axelrod told Reuters.

A gifted orator, Obama has a tendency to give long, detailed answers that the campaign worries could come across as aloof during a televised debate. In his debate prep with sparring partner John Kerry (D-Mass.), Obama has been working on keeping his answers short after four years when he's rarely had to submit to rapid-fire questions.

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“He's got to speak shorter, that's all,” Axelrod told Reuters. “He just hasn't had to do that for the last four years so that's a part of the discipline of preparing for these debates.”

Axelrod said that the president was trying to squeeze in preparation time whenever he could, on flights to west coast campaign events and at the White House in the evening.

“We don't have the same luxury that Romney does in terms of time,” he said.

Axelrod also said that Obama was familiarizing himself with Romney’s record and statements during the campaign.

“He's spent a lot of time reading material and most of it is familiarizing himself with what Governor Romney said in this campaign,” he said.  “He's pretty conversant with his own record but he wasn't very conversant with Romney's.”

Romney, for his part, will seek to land rhetorical blows as Obama heads into the final stretch of the presidential election with a slight lead in the polls. 

Romney’s debate partner is Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and reports said the GOP nominee began prepping earlier this month, while Democrats held their national convention in Charlotte, N.C. Romney and Portman went head-to-head during a week-long retreat at the Vermont home of former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey (R), a campaign surrogate.

The first debate, on domestic policy, is scheduled for Oct. 3 at the University of Denver. The two candidates will then take questions from the audience on Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. and debate foreign policy on Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.

Vice-President Joe Biden and Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), hold their only debate on Oct. 1 in Kentucky.

Biden has tapped Ryan’s House Budget committee colleague Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Ryan has enlisted former solicitor general and famed legal scholar Ted Olson to aid in their debate preparations.