John McCain: Debate will be most-viewed ‘in history’

WASHINGTON -- He has debated both of the candidates who will square off Wednesday in the first presidential debate of the 2012 campaign. He was the last person to debate President Obama, in 2008.

John McCain said Sunday that he expects the debates between Obama and Republican Mitt Romney will be “excellent,” but that he doesn’t expect a major moment that sticks in people’s minds.

“That doesn’t happen very often,” McCain said in an interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley. “Frankly, I can’t remember the last time there was one of these comments that grabbed everybody’s attention because, frankly, the candidates are too well-prepared. They’re well-scripted.”

Still, the Arizona senator predicted that Wednesday’s debate will be the most-viewed “in history.”


DEBATE QUIZ: Who said it?

“The fact is they are becoming a more and more important part of the political scene,” McCain said.

Asked which of the candidates is a better debater, McCain said both are “excellent,” but noted that Romney, who participated in dozens of debates during the Republican primary, “has a lot more recent experience.”

McCain’s comments were part of a Sunday show focus on the first debate, to be held in Denver. Romney surrogate Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor, and Romney’s vice-presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, took different views in their comments. Christie boldly predicted that the debate would reverse Obama’s gains in the polls.

“Wednesday night’s the restart of this campaign,” Christie said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And I think you’re going to see those numbers start to move right back in the other direction.”

But in an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Ryan sought to tamp down expectations.

“I don’t think one event is going to make or break this campaign,” Ryan said in a sit-down with Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “Look, President Obama is a very gifted speaker. The man’s been on the national stage for many years. He’s an experienced debater. He’s done these kinds of debates before. This is Mitt’s first time on this kind of a stage.”

White Housesenior advisor David Plouffe was tamping down expectations himself, saying the Obama campaign was preparing for a tough debate.


“We’ve expected all along that Gov. Romney will have a good night,” Plouffe told NBC’s David Gregory. “He’s prepared more than any candidate in history, and he’s shown himself to be a very, very good debater through the years.”

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