HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — Nearing their first face-off, President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney are hunkering down for intense preparations ahead of Wednesday's presidential debate, where the GOP nominee hopes to change the trajectory of the White House race.
Obama was huddling Monday with top advisers at a desert resort in Nevada. Romney had practice planned in Massachusetts, where he also spent most of the weekend working with his debate team. The Republican challenger was then headed to Denver, the site of the first debate, later Monday for a rally and more preparation for the high-stakes event.
Five weeks from Election Day, polls show Romney trailing Obama in many of the nine states that will determine the outcome of the White House race. The three October debates give Romney one of his best opportunities to stem Obama's momentum and convince the public to back his vision for the nation's future.
"What I'm most concerned about is having a serious discussion about what we need to do to keep the country growing and restore security to hardworking Americans," Obama said during a rally in Las Vegas Sunday night. "That is what people are going to be listening for. That's the debate you deserve."
As the candidates prepped for a debate focused on domestic issues, Republicans were keeping up the pressure on Obama on international issues, namely his administration's handling of the attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya that led to the death of the American ambassador and three others.
Romney, in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, repeated his criticism of Obama for having called the attack and other unrest in the Middle East "bumps in the road."
"Our country seems to be at the mercy of events rather than shaping them," Romney wrote. "We're not moving them in a direction that protects our people or our allies."