U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney did some last-minute prepping for Wednesday's 90-minute debate in Denver.
The debate was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. (9 p.m. EDT) at the University of Denver.
Romney has been closeted with Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who plays the role of Obama, while the Obama campaign was mum about who played Romney's role.
Obama campaign spokesman Robert Gibbs told "CBS This Morning" the president plans to have a conversation with voters, focusing on the economy and education. Romney spokesman Kevin Madden told the same program the GOP challenger will offer specifics of his tax plan.
Earlier this week, Romney told KDVR, Denver, he is considering a cap on deductions of $17,000 for his tax reform plan.
Portman told CNN it was his job to play a mean Obama.
"Part of your responsibility in these debates is to be tougher so the candidate you are helping is ready for the worst of it -- so you have to be mean. You need to get under their skin. Sometimes the candidate you are working with doesn't appreciate it, and even more often, their family doesn't appreciate it," Portman said.
Though Portman declined to demonstrate his Obama imitation, a Republican party spokesman told CNN it is spot on.
Romney has practiced being "respectfully aggressive," hoping to please Republicans who think he's been too passive, a senior adviser told The New York Times.
At the same time, he intends not to be too insistent, wanting to appear likable and to relate to voters, advisers told The Wall Street Journal.
He also hopes to woo independent voters, women or others who may be disappointed with Obama's policies but still like him, the senior adviser told the Times.
Madden told the Journal the former Massachusetts governor hopes to connect with voters by offering solutions to their problems.
The Republican's chief goal during the debate is to show he can be trusted to improve their lives, the Times said.
"People want to know who's going to win, who's going to score the punches," Romney told supporters in Denver Monday night. "In my view, it's not so much winning and losing or even the people themselves, the president and myself. It's about something bigger than that. These debates are an opportunity for each of us to describe the pathway forward for America that we would choose."
Obama, who polls indicate has developed a lead in several battleground states, has been instructed by aides to use humor and his wide smile to fend off attempts to be drawn into a squabble, advisers told the Times.
He seeks to convey confidence and humility about his first term while avoiding coming across as "arrogant or dismissive," an adviser said.
"The president recognizes it as one of the biggest audiences he'll have between now and November," Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Las Vegas Tuesday, adding Obama intends "to use it as an opportunity to speak directly to the American people, directly to people who are sitting at home on their couches."
Both candidates have practiced "one-liners" they hope will become sound bites that shape the narrative in the days to come, the Times said.
The debate, at the University of Denver's 7,200-seat Magness Arena, is expected to focus on domestic policy, with questions likely dealing with the economy, healthcare, "the role of government and governing," said moderator Jim Lehrer, executive editor and former anchor of the "PBS NewsHour.,"
The topics could change "because of news developments," Lehrer said.
The 90 minutes are to be divided into six 15-minute segments.
The second debate, Oct. 16, at a 5,000-seat sports and exhibition complex at Hofstra University near New York City, is to be a "town meeting" format moderated by CNN "State of the Union" host Candy Crowley.
The third debate, Oct. 22, at a 750-seat performing arts center at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., is expected to focus on foreign policy and be moderated by CBS News "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer.
Ahead of Wednesday night, the Romney campaign released a "debate viewing guide" to Obama's "top five favorite lies and exaggerations."
They include "false claims" about Romney's middle-class tax plans, "false accusations" suggesting Romney's business record includes outsourcing, "false claims" that Obama's budget cuts the federal deficit $1 trillion, "misleading claims" about Romney's plan for Medicare reform and "false claims" that "90 percent" of the current deficit is due to President George W. Bush's policies.
The Obama campaign had no immediate comment on the list.
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