Mr. Obama's campaign manager, Jim Messina, said in a public memo Monday that Mr. Romney was now trying to "hide" his true views, "because they'll hurt the middle class and his chances of winning."
Tuesday's debate format"”a town hall-style session, with voters asking questions"”could help Mr. Romney show himself as more likable than he is portrayed in a number of negative ads from the Obama campaign. Mr. Romney will be able to play off his questioners' experiences as he lays out his record as a businessman and governor.
On health care, Mr. Romney may talk about passing a health-care measure in Massachusetts and say his approach was different from the president's, said Kevin Madden, a senior adviser to the Romney campaign. "A lot of voters are looking at this election through the lens of the economy, but also they're looking for someone who is competent and someone who will give them confidence," he said.
On Monday, the president spent a third day mostly out of public view at a resort here as he prepared for the debate. With him were policy and political aides and Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.), who is standing in for Mr. Romney in practice sessions.
Mr. Romney spent most of Sunday and Monday at a Marriott hotel in Burlington, Mass., joined by his top advisers and Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio), who plays Mr. Obama in mock debates.
Mr. Obama is aiming to be more aggressive than he was in the first debate in Denver, aides said, but he faces a challenge with the town hall-style format. The audience will be made up of local voters, selected by the Gallup polling group, who are undecided or open to changing their mind in their vote for president. They will each write a proposed question and questioners will be selected by Candy Crowley of CNN, the debate moderator.
"If you want to do well in this town-hall format, you have to engage with the voters who are present, who are representing millions more people in their questions," said Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist and veteran of presidential politics. "You need to answer those questions." At the same time, he said, the president must attack Mr. Romney's positions without appearing to be disrespecting the questioner.
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