In talking points circulated by the Romney campaign to top surrogates and obtained by CNN, the Romney team is hoping to focus the national discussion on rising debts at Tuesday's debate. The Republican nominee also plans a speech on government spending on Friday.
According to the memo, surrogates are expected to emphasize that "on day one of his presidency, Mitt Romney will announce deficit-reduction measures that end the era of big government ushered in by President Obama."
Romney surrogates are also expected to emphasize a plan that would cut non-security discretionary spending by 5 percent across the board and cap overall federal spending.
The Obama campaign, meanwhile, is expected to aggressively target areas where the Republican nominee appeared to have bested the president during the first debate. Among them: challenging Romney on his China policy, how he differs from Obama on Iran and the numbers behind his proposed tax cut.
"The real Mitt Romney has been running on his 'severely conservative' positions for years, but now — just weeks before Election Day — he’s trying to hide them because they’ll hurt the middle class and his chances of winning," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a memo released Monday. "We saw this clearly in the first presidential debate on Oct. 3, as Gov. Romney cynically and dishonestly hid the self-described 'severely conservative' positions he’s been running on — and there’s no doubt he’s memorizing more deceptions as he prepares for Tuesday’s second debate."
The president is also expected to aggressively attack Romney on his assertion that "pre-existing conditions are covered" under his medical plan — not true if coverage has lapsed — and defend the administration's reaction to the Benghazi terrorist attacks. Part of that response will be emphasizing that House Republicans voted for a reduction in the embassy security budget.
The dueling talking points come as a new poll from The Washington Post and ABC News shows the president with a 49-to-46 percent lead among likely voters, an indication the race remains tightly deadlocked with just over three weeks to go.