US President Barack Obama and rival Mitt Romney prepared for Wednesday's debate this weekend, leaving their running mates to spar over policy and seek votes in key swing states.
With the president off the campaign trail just 38 days before Americans vote on November 6, Romney spent a
quiet day in Massachusetts, visiting the home of son Tagg in a Boston suburb and, according to his campaign, steering clear of debate preparation.
But with both men seeking an edge in their crucial first face-off of the campaign, they will undoubtedly be spending the bulk of their time between now and Wednesday's debate in preparation for the showdown in Denver, Colorado, one of about a dozen swing states where voters will determine the election.
Obama travels to Nevada for an event on Sunday, and spends the next two days in the town of Henderson gearing up for Wednesday, according to the White House.
Both sides began their debate spin weeks ago, seeking to set high expectations for their opponent, which they could then declare he failed to meet, while setting the bar low for their own candidate.
Democrats say Romney is a challenging debater who honed his skills with about 20 debates in the Republican primaries. Republicans counter that Obama is seasoned with several presidential debates against John McCain in 2008.
Romney, who trails Obama in the polls, suggested he would do well at the debates, provided Americans do not merely seize on the "theatrics" of one-liners but focus on real issues.
"The American people will listen carefully to the conversation... and they'll decide who can help their family, who will be able to get our economy going in the way it could be going and they'll make their decision based on what they believe is in the best interest of the country and their own family," Romney told reporters Friday.
"And I expect to be able to describe that in a way people will understand, and if they do, I'll get elected."
With Obama and Romney hunkered down, the campaign trail was wide open for vice president Joe Biden and Romney's running mate Paul Ryan.