JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — While President Obama rallies his supporters at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Mitt Romney plans to spend much of next week preparing for the fall debates.
After his rallies in Cincinnati and Jacksonville on Saturday, Romney is headed to his lakeside vacation home in Wolfeboro, N.H., for Labor Day weekend. He has no public events planned Sunday or Monday. The Democratic convention will hold televised proceedings Tuesday through Thursday, with unofficial gatherings on Labor Day.
Romney may hold events later in the week; his aides previously said the Republican nominee would likely campaign in swing states during the convention. His running mate, Paul D. Ryan, plans to hold events in North Carolina next week. A CNN/Time poll last week showed the state to be a dead heat, with 47% of likely voters siding with the Democrats and 48% with Romney and Ryan.
After Labor Day, the former Massachusetts governor will prepare for three October debates at the Vermont home of his former lieutenant governor, Kerry Healey, who accompanied him during his recent foreign trip and has been a key surrogate for the campaign as Romney has sought to connect with female voters, who favor Obama.
Romney, Healey and other aides will be joined by campaign advisor and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who played the role of Obama in debate prep sessions with Sen. John McCain. (He played the part so perfectly that McCain’s wife, Cindy, once refused to speak with him for several days, according to a McCain advisor.)
Traditionally, presidential nominees have prepared for the debates by practicing with a stand-in like Portman. But advisors have said that Romney did not enjoy that sort of preparation during the primary debates and preferred instead to study his briefing books and talk through possible answers.
Occasionally, aides would slip a funny photo deep in the briefing books to check whether the candidate read all the way through. Other presidential and vice presidential candidates have had to be forced to study. Romney has never had that kind of concentration problem; an aide said he always noticed the pictures they slipped in.