Image: Mitt Romney
© Brian Snyder / Reuters  /  REUTERS
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally in Denver, Colorado October 1, 2012 ahead of his first debate with U.S. President Barack Obama.
NBC News
updated 10/2/2012 11:39:49 AM ET 2012-10-02T15:39:49

Mitt Romney used his final scheduled public appearance before Wednesday's first presidential debate to dismiss the expectations game played by both campaigns in recent weeks and to rally supporters with retooled economic rhetoric geared towards middle class voters.

"People want to know who’s going to win," Romney said of the debate at the nearby University of Denver. "Who’s going to score the punches and who’s going to make the biggest difference in the arguments they make."

"There’s going to be all the scoring of winning and losing, and you know, in my view, it’s not so much winning and losing or even the people themselves — the president and myself — it’s about something bigger than that," Romney continued, dismissing the parlor game of expectations-setting that has defined much of the political discourse in recent days.

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In his own form of spin, Romney said he was "delighted" about the chance to debate President Obama three times in the next month and declared that the debates, taken in sum, would "be conversation with the American people that will span almost an entire month."

Before a raucous crowd of more than 5,000 supporters, Romney infused his economic talking points with a middle-class focus that perhaps spoke to the recent debate prep designed to refine his message to best appeal to undecided voters.

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"Income is down some $ 4,300 dollars a family and with a median income of about $50,000 dollars that means things are really tough for the American people," Romney said. "The middle class squeeze has been unbearable. Gasoline prices way up; food prices up; electricity prices up; health insurance prices up. The American middle class is struggling under this president."

In interviews before the event, Colorado supporters uniformly told NBC News that if Romney needed to show more of a personal understanding of middle class life on Wednesday if he wanted to siphon support from the president.

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"I really think that Mitt needs to be more personal with the American people," said Renee Salza, a Realtor and Republican who is supporting Romney. "I think a lot of people feel he's somewhat aloof and disconnected from everyday Americans."

Romney, who referenced Colorado's defense community at NORAD and the Air Force Academy, was also joined by a state icon of a different sort, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, who endorsed Romney in a brief on-stage appearance.

“I must say today has been a very good day, not only because of what happened yesterday," Elway said, referencing the Broncos' thrashing of rival Oakland yesterday, "because I get the opportunity to introduce to you the next president of the United States, Governor Mitt Romney.”

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Video: Deep Dive: Deep in debate

  1. Closed captioning of: Deep Dive: Deep in debate

    >>> in today's deep dive, president obama and mitt romney will share a stage wednesday night in front of what's likely to be the the largest audience yet in this campaign and may be the best and last chance to change the trajectory of the race. they are both experienced debaters, to a point. the president survived 26 primary debates, three general election debates in 2008 . his debate experience for federal office goes back to his only unsuccessful campaign, his 2000 democratic primary challenge to bobby rush .

    >> i don't think anybody should have a pass. i don't think congressman rush should have a pass. i don't think the mayor should have a pass. i don't get a pass for my state senate seat.

    >> but the president hasn't debated in four years and his campaign claims he's rusty. romney 's experience goes back to his first unsuccessful run for political office . that 1994 senate race against ted kennedy . but romney 's just been through a 19-debate primary gauntlet. what do these debates tell us about which obama or romney will show up? romney 's best performances is when he caps a tough defense with a good line. like these against gingrich.

    >> i spent 25 years in business. if i had a business executive saying they wanted to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, i'd say you're fired. did you check your own investments? you also have investments in fannie mae and freddie mac .

    >> and romney is at his worst when forced to respond to a rebuttal when he's interrupted or when he feels rules have been violated. he saw it in the 2002 debates against shannon o'brien, in 1994 against kennedy and of course, in these primaries.

    >> mr. romney , the kennedys are not in public service to make money. we have paid too high a price in our commitment to the public service .

    >> senator kennedy, your question for mr. romney .

    >> mr. romney --

    >> i'm sorry. was it my turn to respond.

    >> i was going to end it there.

    >> my suggestion about my comments in utah. let me complete it and you can ask me.

    >> do you have a problem with allowing someone to finish speaking and i suggest if you want to become president of the united states , you have to let both people speak.

    >> romney 's worst moment was this one. it was a year ago with rick perry .

    >> rick, again, i'm speaking. i'm speaking. i'm speaking. you get 30 seconds. this is the way the rules work here is i get 60 seconds and you get 30 seconds to respond.

    >> obama has done his best to test him on this. both men have been tripped up by looking patronizing to women. aggressive attacks made her less likely to romney and helped turn the race in his favor. the last week of their fight centered on whether romney had taken a sexist tone when accused of accepting an anti-abortion group's endorsement.

    >> i did not in any way acknowledge their endorsement.

    >> you accepted it.

    >> in what way did i accept it?

    >> ask your campaign spokesman.

    >> i don't have one here tonight. i'm here now. i do not take the position of a pro-life candidate. i'm in favor of preserving and protecting a woman's right to choose and your effort to try and create fear and deception here is unbecoming.

    >> o'brien said romney would not have used that word to describe a man. romney responded i realized it's not a word frequently used but i was an english major and i use words that are not that common. the president showed his side in 2008 and it cost --

    >> he's very likable. i agree with that. i don't think i'm that bad.

    >> you're likable enough, hilary.

    >> he has to keep his likability advantage intact by coming across as relatable. it's the potential for shoring gore-type scorn for your opponent that's the chief danger for obama . obama was tested on that in his senate race when he had to debate allen keys. obama was sighing and shaking his head. advisers were worried he couldn't hide his feelings about coast and would come across as irritable. coast repeated an attack line that obama was a candidate jesus would never support.

    >> christ is over here, senator obama is over there. the two don't look the same. that means i'm thinking about the lord. and i challenge all the voters of this state who profess to believe in christ how can you vote from such a faith shake devoid?

    >> i don't need him lecturing me about christianity. that's why i have a pastor, that's why i have my bible. that's whoo i have my own prayer. and i don't think any of you are particularly interested in having him lecture you about your faith. you're interested in solving problems and jobs. i'm running to be united states senator .

    >> obama had tougher competition in 2008 and displayed weaknesses during the primaries, a tendency to ramble and sometimes distant. there was a moment in south carolina when brian williams asked him how he would respond to a terrorist attack .

    >> senator obama , if god forbid a thousand times while we were gather here tonight two american cities had been hit by terrorists and further learned it had been the work of al qaeda , how would you change the u.s. military stance overseas as a result?

    >> the first we'd have to do is make sure we have an effective emergency response. something that this administration failed to do when he had a hurricane in new orleans. and i think we have to review how we operate in the event of not only a natural disaster , but also a terrorist attack .

    >> so he went emergency response, katrina, fema. he tried to redeem himself by adding that enemies of the u.s. have to be hunted down. the breakthrough came through the 14th primary face-off when asking hillary clinton about eliot spitzer 's plan to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.

    >> do you support his plan?

    >> tim, this is where everybody plays gotcha. it makes a lot of sense. what is the governor supposed to do? he's dealing with a serious problem.

    >> i was confused on senator clinton 's answer. i can't tell whether she was for it or against it. parts of leadership is not just lo looking backwards and seeing what's popular or trying to gauge popular sentiment. it's about setting a direction for the country.

    >> the president is best what he's able to sharpen his responses and throw a punch. he was able to elevate himself in the debates with john mccain in moments like this one.

    >> in a short career, he does not understand our national security challenges. we don't have time for on the job training, my friend.

    >> senator mccain in the last debate and today again suggested i don't understand. it's true. there are some things i don't understand. i don't understand how we ended up invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 while osama bin laden and al qaeda are setting up base camps and safe havens to train terrorists to attack us. that was senator mccain 's judgment.

    >> one thing to keep in mind, barack obama has rarely had a debate when he's been trailing and mitt romney has rarely had a debate when he's been ahead. he's done a lot of debates in this position, had a needed debate to kick start his campaign. you can watch mitt romney and president obama face-off tomorrow here on msnbc.


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