Presidential races

Obama calls debate prep ‘a drag’

President Obama played some hookey from his intense debate preparation early this week in Las Vegas, visiting a campaign field office in nearby Henderson and chatting with volunteers for his re-election effort.

“It’s very nice. Although basically they’re keeping me indoors all the time. It’s a drag. They’re making me do my homework,” Obama joked with volunteer Andrea Stinger.

{mosads}Campaign traveling press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters later that the president viewed visiting with voters and volunteers as important during his time in Nevada, a crucial swing state in Novemeber.

“Obviously, as you know, he just went and took a break, and went to a local campaign office to rally and excite volunteers and our campaign staff, because at the same time, we’re focused on early vote and we’re focused on getting people out to vote as soon as they have the opportunity to,” Psaki said. “So there’s a balance we’re striking here as well while we’re in Nevada.”

But the Obama aide offered scant details about how the president’s debate prep was going, telling reporters she did not want to tip the campaign’s hand before the big day.

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Psaki did indicate that the president could press Mitt Romney to provide specifics on his tax plan at Wednesday’s contest. The Republican presidential candidate has said he’d cut taxes across the board, but keep the plan revenue neutral by eliminating some deductions that benefit the wealthiest Americans. But Democrats have said studies of the plan have shown Romney would likely need to eliminate deductions utilized by the middle class to afford the plan, effectively raising taxes.

“We think the American people are looking for specifics, and Mitt Romney and his team, including his running mate, and many of his surrogates have had ample opportunity to do that,” Psaki said.

“This week hasn’t been the greatest week for that, on that front,” Psaki continued. “Yesterday his running mate, Paul Ryan, refused to provide specifics about how they’ll pay for their $5 trillion tax plan, claiming that he didn’t have the time to do it.  It doesn’t matter how much time he has, the math doesn’t add up, as we know.”

The Obama spokeswoman was referring to an interview Ryan held with Fox News on Sunday, in which he said he did not have the time to explain the different deductions.

“I like Chris; I didn’t want to get into all of the math on this because everyone would start changing the channel,” Ryan said by way of explanation Monday during an interview with talk radio host Charlie Sykes. But Ryan also insisted analysis of the Romney plan cited by Democrats was flawed.

The Obama team also insisted Monday that their candidate would look to provide substance at the debate.

“I think you know, having covered him, and all of us having observed him — the President’s inclination and preference when policy is being debated is to debate it substantively and discuss it substantively, and to explain and put forward his ideas for why he thinks — or what he thinks is the best way to move this country forward, both domestically and internationally,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney. “And that preference and inclination, given modern debate format, might be a liability, but it is the approach he prefers to take.”

Psaki contrasted that with reports Mitt Romney has been practicing “zingers” for Wednesday’s debate.

“I’ll say the reason why this is such an important point is that Mitt Romney’s team has previewed that he’s been working on one-liners and zingers for months — as if that’s what the American people are looking for, and as if that’s what they’re waiting to hear from him,” Psaki said.

But Romney himself has said he is also looking for a substantive discussion.

“You know, I know that in debates there’s always interest in the theatrics, if you will, and the one-liners, the jokes, and who wore what color tie and so forth,” Romney told reporters on Friday.

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