In the hours before a presidential debate, reporters sound like Cold War-era Kremlinologists, who reputedly pored over things like where Soviet officials stood in Kremlin photographs to figure out who was on the way up, and who was on the way out. The politicians these reporters cover know this.
Exhibit A: President Barack Obama began his day with a stroll near the tony Williamsburg, Va., resort where he spent his "debate prep" flanked by top advisers Anita Dunn and David Plouffe.
"How are you feeling about tonight?" shouted one of the journalists standing about 50 feet away at the photo op. "I feel fabulous," came the president's reply. "Look at this beautiful day."
The question, "Are you aware Michelle voted for you yesterday?" got the president to yell back, "Thank goodness!"
But when a reporter called out "Is Hillary to blame for Benghazi?"—a reference to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying in an interview on Monday that she was ultimately responsible for the security situation ahead of the attack in that Libyan city—the president's response, according to pool reporter Kathleen Hennessey of the Los Angeles Times, was "silence. [He] kept walking."
Looking to recover from his painfully limp performance in the first go-round, Obama, who flew later in the day to Long Island where the debate is being held at Hofstra University, has promised to take the fight to Republican rival Mitt Romney. Aides say the president will work harder to connect to the self-described undecided voters posing the questions.
The president's debate prep routine is a closely guarded, behind-closed-doors affair, though it is known that, unlike last time, the team includes national security aide Ben Rhodes in order to help with foreign policy issues.
Democratic Sen. John Kerry, playing the role of Romney in mock debates with Obama, came with the president to Long Island. Asked by pool reporter Reid Epstein of Politico how Obama would do, "Kerry flashed a half-smile, no teeth, and gave a thumbs-up sign with his right hand. He said nothing and continued walking by," said Epstein.
It's also known that Obama has done the ritual predebate walk-through of the site—a necessary step to assess things like the lighting and camera angles.
What else did the president do before the debate? A campaign aide, via Hennessey, shares the following details:
1. The POTUS worked out this morning and then met up with his team to do a short 45-minute review. ... He had pasta with chicken for lunch.
2. This afternoon he will do last-minute prep for about an hour with his team. He will spend some down time with his close friends in town for the debate—Marty Nesbitt and Mike Ramos.
3. He will have dinner with the FLOTUS at the hotel before the debate. They are having steak and potatoes at the hotel.