Christie raises expectations for Romney debate performance

Brushing away the “tough couple of weeks” in which Mitt Romney’s standing has dropped in polls, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took to the Sunday talk shows and declared that Wednesday night’s presidential debate will “restart” Romney’s campaign.

“Come Thursday morning, the entire narrative of this race is going to change,” Christie said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He repeated that prediction in appearances on ABC and CBS.

The Wednesday debate will be the first time in the campaign that President Obama and his Republican challenger will share a stage.

“Gov. Romney, I know, is going to do a great job on Wednesday night laying out his vision for America’s future and making the contrast between he and the president of the United States,” Christie said.

Polls might have moved in Obama’s favor, but they could quickly flip the other way, he said.


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

As Christie gave his bold prediction, Romney’s vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan took the more traditional path of trying 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 House senior advisor David Plouffe said 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.”

Plouffe also predicted polls would tighten.

“We’re not going to win battleground states by 10, 12 points,” he said. “This race is going to tighten.”

Romney has participated in dozens of debates during Republican primaries in 2008 and 2012, but this is the first time since his 2002 campaign for governor of Massachusetts that he will debate a Democratic opponent.

Challengers typically benefit – to varying degrees -- from the opportunity to square off against an incumbent president in primetime. Most political observers agree that Romney needs to deliver a strong performance on Wednesday night.

Newt Gingrich said in an interview on CBS that Romney has to make two cases to the American people: “The incumbent should not be reelected, and I would do a better job.”

“He doesn’t have to hit a home run, but Romney has to be, at the end of the debate Wednesday night, a clear alternative who is considered as a potential president by a majority of the American people, in order for his campaign to have a chance to win,” Gingrich said.

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