Countdown to the Debate

Mixed messages as both candidates try to lower expectations.
3:00 | 09/30/12

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Transcript for Countdown to the Debate
There are just 37 days until the election, but tonight we are focused on a more urgent countdown. Just three days until that crucial first debate between president obama and governor romney. The first chance for voters to see the candidates side by side and what many say is a make-or-break opportunity for governor romney to try to narrow that gap in the polls. Tonight both sides in debate prep, and both sides trying to lower expectations. But there was a notable exception that one of romney's top supporters predicted on abc's "this week." Abc's david kerley starts us off tonight in washington. Reporter: Mitt romney went to church, but this sunday wasn't a day just for prayers. It's preparation. Cramming by the candidates for their big debate. And republican chris christie made a bold prediction on abc's "this week." Every time mitt romney has been confronted in this campaign with one of these moments, he has come through in the debate and performed extraordinarily well, so I have absolute confidence that when we get do thursday morning, george, all of you will be shaking your head saying it's a brand-new race. Reporter: Christie is way off the romney campaign script. They're trying to lower expectations. Look, president obama is a very -- he's a very gifted speaker. The man has been on the national stage for many years. This is mitt's first time on this kind of a stage. Reporter: Paul ryan, the vice presidential nominee, who is preparing for his own debate again avoided giving details about the romney tax plan, even when pressed. You haven't given me the math. I don't have the -- it would take me too long to go through all of the math. Reporter: The president is in nevada tonight for what insiders call three days of debate camp at a resort outside of las vegas. They too are trying to lower expectations and believe the counts that the romney campaign is convinced debates are about moments. The idea that I'm anti-immigrant is repulsive. Reporter: And romney will come armed with several one-liners. Clearly they've been practicing these zingers and lines for months so I'm sure they'll have a bunch of clever line, but that's not ultimately what t american people are looking for. Reporter: The president is being coached to be crisper, shorten his answers, and a former democratic candidate says mr. Obama needs to avoid being irritable. But he's got to relax. He's got to show it, and he's got to show a little sense of humor. He's got to show why he's likable. Reporter: The debate is set for 90 minutes on wednesday night. It's all on domestic issues. The first half, jobs and the economy. The second half, health care and other domestic issues.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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