WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney's running mate on Sunday shot down the need for a breakthrough in Wednesday's first presidential debate, trying to allay Republican concerns that the race is slipping away with five weeks to go and momentum on President Barack Obama's side.
Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, working to keep debate expectations for Romney in check, praised Obama's debating skills and called the Democratic incumbent "a very gifted speaker" with years of experience on the national stage. He played down signs that Obama is gaining distance in the most competitive states. Polls are tight, Ryan said, and will stay that way until the election Nov. 6.
"We're running against an incumbent president with incredible resources," Ryan said. "More importantly, I don't think one event is going to make or break this campaign."
Yet at the same time, a prominent Romney supporter said he expected Romney's performance in Denver on Wednesday night would shake up the campaign after a "tough couple of weeks." Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., predicted Romney would do "extraordinarily well" in the debate, and that come Thursday morning, "this whole race is going to be turned upside down."
Romney is trying to rebound from a difficult September, and the three October debates offer a chance to help show that the race is winnable. Christie, who passed on a 2012 run for the White House but is a possible contender in 2016, called the domestic policy and economic debate in Denver "the restart of this campaign."