Tune in to ABCNews.com on Wednesday for livestreaming coverage of the first 2012 Presidential Debate from Denver, Colo. Coverage kicks off with ABC News' live preview show at noon, and full debate coverage begins at 8 p.m.
DENVER - Last week Mitt Romney opened an Ohio bus tour on the same day that a new poll in the state showed him lagging behind President Obama by a 10 point margin.
This week, he enters his final day of preparations before the first presidential debate as a new national poll finds the race close: Obama leads Romney, 49 percent to 45 percent among likely voters across the country, according to the Quinnipiac University survey.
The poll finds that Obama leads 56 to 38 percent among women and 94 to 2 percent among black voters, while Romney leads 52 to 42 percent among men and 53 to 42 percent among white voters. Independents split almost evenly with 47 percent who say they are backing Romney compared to 45 percent who support the president.
But keeping it close nationally isn't going to win Romney the White House if he can't prevail in states like Colorado where most of the recent public polls give Obama the edge - by several points.
The Romney campaign sees the race in this important Western battleground closer than that, and it was no accident that Romney told nearly 6,000 supporters at a rally in Denver last night that he had a "request" for them.
"I'd like you to go out and find one person who voted for Barack Obama - or maybe two or three or four or five - and convince them to come join our team," Romney said to the crowd. "I need you to go out and find people and say 'You know what? It's not working.' It's time to get America going again."
Finding those "three or four or five" Obama supporters, or undecideds, will be crucial in a state that then-candidate Obama won by a 9-point margin over John McCain four years ago. The GOP candidate has no better opportunity to make a good impression on wavering voters than in the three presidential debates, the first of which takes place tomorrow night at the University of Denver.
The problem for Romney, however, is that debates are often the hardest place to make a comeback.
As John Harwood observed in The New York Times this week: "History shows that candidates have different ways to score through presidential debates: the forceful put-down, the surprising show of skill, the opponent's fumble, superior post-debate tactics. But it also shows that to fundamentally alter the direction of a campaign, a candidate usually has to accomplish all of those things." http://nyti.ms/RsEpMx
Besides the Nixon-Kennedy debates of 1960, the only recent series of candidate match-ups that definitively helped one candidate over another were the Gore-Bush debates of 2000.
"Across the entire 2000 debate period, the race shifted from an 8-point lead for Gore to a 4-point lead for Bush," according to Gallup Poll analyst Lydia Saad.
But the bigger picture is not as promising. As ABC News Political Director Amy Walter notes, after looking through the last 40 plus years of data, Gallup reported back in 2008 that "presidential debates are rarely game changers" and pointed to just a "few instances in which the debates may have had a substantive impact on election outcomes." http://abcn.ws/PYUhVr
Nevertheless, there's always the chance that the debates will carry the same importance in 2012 that they did in 2000. Romney, for one, said he is "delighted we're going to have 3 debates."
"It'll be conversation with the American people that will span almost an entire month," Romney said in Denver last night. "We'll describe our respective views, and I believe the people of Colorado will choose a better way forward for our country."
DEBATE EXPECTATIONS: How Team Obama is preparing for the first debate with ABC's Jake Tapper: http://abcn.ws/SYLlOy And how Team Romney is preparing for the first debate with ABC's David Muir: http://abcn.ws/Sv3szy
The Note's virtual political roundtable:
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Maybe we were stupid to assume it was the economy - or, at least, the economy by itself. If the economy was going to lose President Obama the election by itself, he'd probably already be losing it, and the Romney campaign knows this going into the first debate. Mitt Romney's challenge will be to stitch together a larger argument that gets at management and leadership, putting the economy at the top of a list that includes foreign policy and domestic mini-scandals. The campaign's longstanding focus on jobs and the economy at the expense of all else has already shifted, but old habits can be hard to break.
ABC's AMY WALTER: Yesterday the Obama campaign launched their latest - and harshest - broadside against Mitt Romney on China with an ad that essentially accuses the former Massachusetts governor of profiting from sweatshop labor in Chinese factories. Romney's ads, meanwhile, have not had the same bite or intensity - a function of the fact that among undecided voters Obama remains a likeable figure. Harsh attacks won't work to sway them. Even so, even GOP partisans privately admit that they've been frustrated by the Romney campaign's response rate. "Obama's campaign responds to everything from Romney - obsessively - while Romney's campaign responds to almost nothing," said one plugged in GOP strategist. And, on a conference call with reporters yesterday, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour summed up this frustration: "The Obama people spent a whole lot of money to define and disqualify Romney than Romney people did to introduce Romney."
TUNE IN: ABC NEWS PLANS SPECIAL COVERAGE OF THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES. ABC News will provide comprehensive coverage of the three Presidential debates as well as the Vice Presidential debate, which will be moderated by ABC's Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz.
ON TV: Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos will anchor special coverage of the debates from ABC News Election Headquarters in New York from 9:00-11:00 p.m., ET on the following nights: Wednesday, October 3: Presidential Debate on Domestic Policy; Thursday, October 11: Vice Presidential Debate on Foreign and Domestic Policy; Tuesday, October 16: Presidential Town Hall on Foreign and Domestic Policy; Monday, October 22: Presidential Debate on Foreign Policy. Sawyer and Stephanopoulos will be joined by members of ABC's political team including: Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper; "ABC World News" weekend anchor David Muir, who covers the Romney campaign; Senior Political Correspondent Jonathan Karl reporting from ABC's Fact or Fiction Desk; ABC News Contributor George Will from Washington; ABC Political Analysts Matthew Dowd, Nicole Wallace, Donna Brazile, and Austan Goolsbee.
ONLINE: ABC News Digital will provide live debate coverage anchored by ABC News Political Director Amy Walter and "Good Morning America" Weekend Anchor Dan Harris on each night of the debates from 8:00-11:30 p.m., ET. The coverage will be live-streamed across several platforms including ABCNews.com, Yahoo!, Yahoo! News, GoodMorningAmerica.com, ABC News' iPad & iPhone apps, as well as on ABC News affiliate websites. ABC News Digital coverage will also serve as the official provider of the debates on YouTube's Elections Hub. ABC News Digital will have a one-hour pre-show at 8:00 p.m., ET and a one hour post-show each night of the debates, as well as a 30-minute noon show.
ON THE AIR: ABC News Radio will provide live coverage of each debate from 9:00-11:00 p.m., ET including 30 minutes of post-debate analysis. ABC News Radio Correspondent Aaron Katersky will anchor ABC News Radio's coverage from each debate site. For the Presidential Debates, ABC News Radio White House Correspondent Ann Compton will travel with the President and ABC News Radio Correspondent Vic Ratner will travel with Gov. Mitt Romney. For the Vice Presidential Debate, ABC News Radio Correspondent Steven Portnoy will travel with Vice President Joe Biden and ABC News Radio Correspondent Alex Stone will travel with Senator Paul Ryan. In addition, Katersky will anchor a one-hour preview before each debate from 8:00-9:00 p.m., ET; he will be joined by ABC News Radio political analysts and contributors Sam Donaldson, Steve Roberts and Trey Hardin.
with Elizabeth Hartfield ( @LizHartfield)
OBAMA AD SAYS ROMNEY BACKED 'SWEATSHOP' CONDITIONS IN CHINA. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports, a hard-hitting new TV ad from the Obama campaign accuses Mitt Romney of profiting from and indirectly supporting "sweatshop conditions" at a Chinese appliance company in which his Bain Capital invested. "A company called Global Tech maximized profits by paying its workers next to nothing under sweatshop conditions in China," the ad says, over file-photo images of distressed-looking Chinese factory workers. "When Mitt Romney led Bain," it continues, "they saw Global Tech as a good investment, even knowing that the firm promoted its practice of exploiting low-wage labor to its investors." The attack, ahead of the first presidential debate Wednesday, comes as Democrats renew scrutiny of Romney's foreign investments and private-sector business record at Bain, which the Republican nominee has made a centerpiece of his campaign. http://abcn.ws/SULCHA
HOW THE CANDIDATES ARE PREPARING. ABC's Jake Tapper reports from Las Vegas on the Obama and Romney camp's respective preparations for tomorrow's debate. Obama's team has been preparing for the debate at the Westin Lake resort and Spa in Las Vegas, Nevada, while Romney is already in Denver where the debate will take place. Tapper reports that both campaigns have been intensely participating in mock debates, and that Romney is trying to get used to the one on one format, while Obama is working to keep his answers concise. The two men have at least one shared prep activity- both of them are likely to start out their day with a trip to the gym. Watch Jake's report on "Good Morning America": http://abcn.ws/Sw0GKf
ROMNEY SAYS DEBATES ABOUT 'SOMETHING BIGGER' THAN WHO SCORES PUNCHES. ABC's Emily Friedman reports, Emerging from days of debate prep, Mitt Romney tonight arrived in Colorado and told a crowd of thousands that he's "delighted" about the upcoming debates. "Now you know that you're going to get some visitors this week," Romney said. "The president will be here. I'll be here. We're going to have a debate, and there's a lot of interest surrounding the debate. And people want to know who's going to win, who's going to score the punches and who's going to make the biggest difference in the arguments they make." Romney spent several hours on Sunday and this morning doing debate preparation with Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who has been tapped to play President Obama in mock debates. Portman, who flew to Denver with Romney earlier today, will be on hand for last minute debate prep Tuesday and Wednesday. http://abcn.ws/Rwa0gy
AT WHITE HOUSE REQUEST, LOCKHEED MARTIN DROPS PLAN TO ISSUE LAYOFF NOTICES. ABC's Jake Tapper and Mary Bruce report, defense contractor Lockheed Martin heeded a request from the White House Monday - one with political overtones - and announced it will not issue layoff notices to thousands of employees just days before the November presidential election. Lockheed, one of the biggest employers in the key battleground state of Virginia, previously warned it would have to issue notices to employees, required by law, due to looming defense cuts set to begin to take effect after Jan. 2 because of the failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction - the so-called Super-committee, which was created to find a way to cut $1.5 trillion from the federal deficit over the next decade. http://abcn.ws/Sx2PBK
RYAN SAYS OBAMA PLAN RISKS U.S. TROOPS IN AFGHANISTAN. ABC's Shush Walshe reports, Paul Ryan charged Monday that President Obama is risking the lives of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan by making a political calculation to draw down U.S. troops just before the election rather than listen to military commanders in the field. Ryan, Mitt Romney's running mate, said the GOP ticket would "never put politics ahead" of doing what is necessary to "keep our soldiers safe." The GOP vice presidential candidate told Laura Ingraham on her radio show that a Romney administration "would listen to our commanders on the ground when they recommend that we don't pull our troops during a fighting season." http://abcn.ws/QHsknm
NOTED: RYAN TELLS IOWA VOTERS IT'S TIME FOR 'CHOICE PHASE.' ABC's Shush Walshe reports from Dubuque, The campaign has entered "the debate phase, the choice phase," GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan said Monday as he kicked off his two-day Iowa bus tour. "The choice is clear. And here is what we are doing. We are entering the debate phase, the choice phase of this campaign. And this choice is ever so clear," Ryan told the crowd of about 1,000 people at Loras College, the same college his grandfather attended. This is a line Ryan has tried out in fundraisers and interviews, but this is the first time he used it at a public campaign event. http://abcn.ws/SVoVmM
FLORIDA COUNTIES REPORT FAKED VOTE REGISTRATION FORMS. ABC's Amy Bingham reports, A GOP-backed consulting firm may have submitted "hundreds" of faked voter registration forms in Florida, according to the Florida Secretary of State. The GOP cut ties with the third party voter registering company Strategic Allied Consultants on Thursday after the Palm Beach County elections supervisor flagged 106 of the firm's registration forms for having similar handwriting, incorrect addresses and incomplete information. Since then, elections officials in nine Florida counties have unearthed hundreds of possibly fraudulent registration forms. http://abcn.ws/QFVm6H
HOW-TO GUIDE: AVERTING THE FISCAL CLIFF. The New York Times' Jonathan Weisman reports: "Senate leaders are closing in on a path for dealing with the "fiscal cliff" facing the country in January, opting to try to use a postelection session of Congress to reach agreement on a comprehensive deficit reduction deal rather than a short-term solution. Senate Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on the details, and House Republicans continue to resist any discussion of tax increases. But lawmakers and aides say that a bipartisan group of senators is coalescing around an ambitious three-step process to avert a series of automatic tax increases and deep spending cuts." http://nyti.ms/VlPsc2
67 PERCENT KNOW '47 PERCENT.' Bloomberg's Emma Fidel reports: "Two thirds of voters recognize Mitt Romney as the person who made the remark about the "47 percent" - and most don't like it. The majority of Republicans (65 percent), Democrats (65 percent) and independent voters (72 percent) know that Romney described 47 percent of Americans as government dependents who don't pay federal income taxes, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Of the respondents aware of the remarks, 55 percent view them negatively while 23 percent view them positively." http://bloom.bg/RvvlGO
OFFSHORE TACTICS HELPED INCREASE ROMNEY'S WEALTH. The New York Times' Michael Luo and Mike McIntire report: "Mr. Romney, responding to opponents' barbs about his use of overseas tax havens, has offered a narrow defense, saying only that the investments, many made through the private equity firm he founded, Bain Capital, have yielded him "not one dollar of reduction in taxes." A review of thousands of pages of financial documents and interviews with tax lawyers found that in some cases, the offshore arrangements enabled his individual retirement account to avoid taxes on its investments and may well have reduced Mr. Romney's personal income tax bills. But perhaps a more significant impact of Mr. Romney's offshore investments has been on the profit side of the ledger - in the way Bain's tax-avoidance strategies have enhanced his income." http://nyti.ms/Vm6Bm2
LOOK FOR DUEL OVER ENERGY IN DEBATES. The Wall Street Journal's Keith Johnson reports: "During the 2008 campaign, Americans worried about dwindling oil supplies, rising demand and skyrocketing prices. Today, a revolution in domestic energy production has erased the supply worries, and energy-industry jobs are a bright spot in an otherwise-sluggish job market. How to further develop America's energy potential stands at the center of both presidential campaigns, and the question of which candidate can do it better is likely to come up during the debates that begin Wednesday." http://on.wsj.com/PJMR7K
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX:
-TRANSPARENCY GROUP SUES IRS FOR OBAMA RECORDS. The government accountability and transparency group, Cause of Action, is announcing today that it will file a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service for, in the group's words, "refusing to release documents that would identify the names of individuals and businesses of which President Obama has requested tax records. 'Hiding behind a claim of privacy that does not stand up when you consider the commitment to transparency made by this Administration, the IRS has no grounds for refusing our request,' stated Karen Groen, Chief Oversight Counsel at Cause of Action. 'American taxpayers deserve to know if the President has requested to see their tax information. I'd like to know if he wanted to see my tax returns, wouldn't you?'"
-MAJORITY PAC RELEASES NEW ADS IN WISCONSIN AND INDIANA. Majority PAC, the Super PAC supporting Democratic Senate candidates, releases two new ads in the contested races in Wisconsin and Indiana today. In Wisconsin, the group goes on the offensive against Republican nominee Tommy Thompson with an ad titled "Who Better Than Me" that hits Thompson for his support for tax cuts for special interests in Washington and accuses him of wanting to do away with Medicare. In Indiana, the group has teamed up with the AFSCME and Center Forward to launch a $1 million campaign. The group is also on the offensive against the state's Republican nominee- Richard Mourdock. In the ad, titled "Stand Together" Majority PAC highlights a lawsuit Mourdock was involved with which aimed to kill the Chrysler bailout and accuses him of not fighting for Indiana jobs. WATCH "WHO BETTER THAN ME": http://bit.ly/PqQTk3 AND "STAND TOGETHER": http://bit.ly/UDv0Au
@RalstonReports : Here comes the Crossroads money for the homestretch, @maggiepolitico reports, w/a $16M buy starting today. NV included: http://www.politico.com/blogs/burns-haberman/2012/10/crossroads-launches-million-buy-in-senate-presidential-137192.html?hp=l1 …
@RonBonjean : Ann Romney gets tough on critics @TheHill.com http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/259621-ann-romney-gets-tough-on-critics-on-the-campaign-trail …
@mckaycoppins : Pretty amazing to think that the handful of pundits that go on TV in the minutes after the debate ends will effectively decide who won.
with ABC's Joanna Suarez
-President Barack Obama will continue debate preparation in Henderson, Nev.
-Mitt Romney also has no public events scheduled and will remain in Denver for debate preparation.
-Vice President Joe Biden will return to the campaign trail with events in Charlotte and Ashville, N.C.
-Paul Ryan will continue his bus tour with stops in Clinton, Muscatine and Burlington, Iowa.
-First Lady Michelle Obama will address grassroots supporters in Cincinnati. She will later attend a fundraiser in Seattle.
-Ann Romney will hold a rally in Littleton, Colorado.
Check out The Note's Futures Calendar : http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV