Christie Says Romney Will Upend Presidential Race in Debate

Republican Mitt Romney will turn his race with President Barack Obama “upside down” with his performance in their debate this week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said, raising expectations for his party’s White House contender after a “tough couple of weeks.”

Christie and Romney’s running mate, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, called it a misstep for the former Massachusetts’ governor to say at a fundraiser that 47 percent of Americans “believe they are victims” and feel “entitled” to government support. A secretly recorded video of the comments surfaced this month.

“He’s had a tough couple of weeks, let’s be honest,” Christie, a Republican, said of Romney on CBS’s “Face the Nation” today. Yet the morning after the Oct. 3 debate in Denver, “you are all going to be scratching your heads, saying, ‘Wow, we have a barn-burner now,’” Christie said.

Christie, who gave the keynote address at the Republican convention last month, said the debates will give Romney a chance to talk directly to voters nationwide, without “being filtered by anybody.” He also said Romney, trailing Obama in many recent polls of voters, performed well in the debates during the Republican primaries.

Romney Missteps

“We’ve had some missteps,” Ryan said on “Fox News Sunday,” agreeing that one of them was the 47 percent comment Romney made at a private session in May with donors.

Romney “acknowledges himself that was an inarticulate way of describing how we’re worried that in a stagnant Obama economy more people have become dependent on government because they have no economic opportunity,” said Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Ryan played down the importance of the first debate, saying, “I don’t think any one event is going to make or break this campaign.”

Obama travels today to the swing state of Nevada, where he’ll hold a rally in Las Vegas before settling down in nearby Henderson for debate practice sessions before the first debate. Romney is at his home outside of Boston today, with no public events scheduled as he prepares for his encounter with Obama.

Other Debates

The two also will meet in debates on Oct. 16 and Oct. 22, and Ryan will face Vice President Joe Biden on Oct. 11.

Romney must both make two separate pitches during the debates, Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker who sought this year’s nomination, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” today.

“You first have to make sure people say Obama’s stagnation is unacceptable,” and then make the case for what a Romney approach would be, Gingrich said. Romney “doesn’t have to hit a home run, but Romney has to be at the end of the debate Wednesday night a clear alternative,” he said.

Some Democrats on today’s television talk programs said they agreed that Obama’s lead in the polls will shrink after the debate, as the former Massachusetts governor will get a boost from being on the same stage as the president.

“This race is going to tighten,” David Plouffe, a senior advisor to Obama, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” On ABC’s “This Week,” Plouffe said, “We believed all along that Governor Romney probably has more benefit out of this debate potentially than we do.”

Movement Needed

Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, said on “Meet the Press” that Romney needs a bump in the polls to keep alive his presidential hopes.

“If there’s no movement, then this race is over.”

Ryan, during his Fox News interview, criticized Obama on foreign policy, especially the administration’s efforts to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Obama projects ‘‘weakness and equivocation in dealing with Iranian leaders, Ryan said.

‘‘The Ayatollahs, by virtue of their conduct, don’t believe the president when he says his interest is to stop Iran’’ from obtaining nuclear-weapons capacity, Ryan said.

Obama in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly Sept. 25 said the U.S. ‘‘will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,’’ and that the time for a diplomatic resolution to the issue ‘‘is not limited.’’

To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Drajem in Washington at mdrajem@bloomberg.net or Cotten Timberlake in Washington at ctimberlake@bloomberg.net

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