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Campaign surrogates say Obama has crucial task in second debate

Previewing Tuesday night’s debate between President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney, Democratic Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday that Obama must “step up” in his confrontation with Romney.

David Gregory analyzes this morning's Meet the Press including interviews with Stephen Colbert and a special conversation about the impact of the debates.

In the first debate between the two candidates on Oct. 3 – widely viewed as a major victory for Romney – Reed said, “It took the stench of defeat to free Mitt Romney from the Far Right of the Republican Party; he got to move away because he was in such a desperate position that he got to say whatever he wanted to say.”

In their second meeting, Reed said, Obama must “stand up and every time sharply address him and not let him get away with” any evasions or any camouflaging of his positions.   

Another prominent Democrat, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, said Romney is “a good pitchman, for sure. And that’s why in the second debate, I think it’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out because he can sell something; that’s sort of what he’s been doing. But the reality is: Who is this man and what’s really behind the facade?”

Granholm compared Romney to “a Trojan horse coming in to occupy the city of (Washington) D.C., but inside the Trojan horse are trickle-down generals and neo-cons, the same people who wrote the Bush plan.”

But Republican campaign strategist Alex Castellanos said, “Something big happened in that first debate that was beyond President Obama not showing up. And that was that President Obama hasn’t really been trying to get elected again, he’s been trying to stop Mitt Romney from getting elected.”

President Obama took a break from debate camp to serve lunch to volunteers in Williamsburg, while Mitt Romney prepped in Boston. The town hall style debate is scheduled for Tuesday. NBC's Kristen Welker reports.

That strategy failed in the first debate, Castellanos argued, because Romney didn’t resemble the portrait of him that Obama and his campaign had been attempting to paint, but instead was “a reasonable, practical problem-solver.”

Castellanos contended that “Barack Obama now has no campaign for the future” and no argument for “why he’s indispensably needed. Now his campaign against Mitt Romney has cracked -- this is man with two empty holsters.”

 Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association said on Meet the Press that Romney’s upward movement in recent polling to either tie Obama in some battleground states, or even surpass him, reflected not merely Romney’s strong performance in the first debate but “a sharp contrast between the vision of Mitt Romney and the record of Barack Obama. It was the first time that 60 million Americans live got to see the two and another 60 million or so through social media got to see them.”

McDonnell said Romney’s momentum in recent polling “is a sustainable trend.”

But Granholm argued that Romney’s momentum will be slowed “not just by the president’s performance in the second debate, but by the economic numbers that are coming out that demonstrate that there has been clear progress. When we’ve got the lowest unemployment rate (at 7.8 percent last month) since the president took office and you’ve got a huge boost in consumer confidence,  the highest in five year, highest housing starts in five years, lowest foreclosure rate in five years, the number of jobs that have been created – I think that will seep in.”

McDonnell argued that the Obama campaign had been trying to divert voters’ attention from the still sluggish economy by pointing to secondary issues, such as Romney’s opposition to taxpayer funding for the Public Broadcasting System – epitomized by his comment in the first debate that, “I like PBS, I love Big Bird.... But I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.”

McDonnell said, “The top issue facing the country isn’t Bain Capital, it isn’t Mitt Romney’s tax returns, it isn’t Big Bird – it’s how to do we get the greatest country on earth … out of debt and back to work.”