Candidates Role Play Ahead of High Stakes Debate

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With Election Day five weeks away, President Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney are preparing for the first of three debates, scheduled to take place Wednesday at the University of Denver.

At a Monday night rally in Denver, Romney previewed one of his lines of attack.

"We've had 43 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent. And what does the president have to say to all this? He says, 'Forward.' I think 'forewarned' is a better term!" Romney told the Denver audience.

Romney is trailing President Obama in most polls, and his campaign knows the upcoming debates could be their best chance to turn matters around.

That's why the former governor has spent many hours practicing for Wednesday's debate. He'll plot strategy with top advisers once again Tuesday.

In the mock debates, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, is playing the role of Obama.

"He's playing Barack Obama in these mock debates we have. I don't like him much anymore, alright," Romney joked.

The president took a break from debate prep Monday to visit a campaign office and make a few calls to unsuspecting voters.

"Hi, Donna. This is Barack Obama, how are you?" the president said in a call to one voter. "You've been so helpful. You've been working so hard even though you've got some health issues. Hopefully I'll get to see you in person sometime."

It was just a brief break for the president, who like Romney, has been rehearsing for days.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., is playing the role of Romney in Mr. Obama's practice sessions.

The Obama team continues to lower expectations ahead of Wednesday's debate, saying last night the president is out of practice; the last time he debated was four years ago.

Democratic officials have all but conceded the first debate to Romney, even though the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows most Americans expect President Obama to win the debates.

And both men will be trying to avoid their own past pitfalls. Advisers say Obama has to avoid appearing unlikeable, while Romney can't seem out of touch with average Americans.

The president can also be verbose. He's working to make answers crisper and more concise.

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Dale Hurd

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A CBN News veteran, Dale Hurd has reported extensively from Western Europe, as well as China, Russia, and Central and South America.  Since 9/11, Dale has reported in depth on various aspects of the global war on terror in the United States and Europe.  Follow Dale on Twitter @HurdontheWeb and "like" him at Facebook.com/DaleHurdNews.