US President Barack Obama's aides say he will be a lot more aggressive in his second debate with presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Obama and Romney hunkered down in private debate preparation for much of the day on Sunday as aides offered a pre-debate sparring match on television.
They disagreed on much, but agreed that Romney bested Obama in their first meeting nearly two weeks ago - a performance that shifted the direction of a race that had favoured the president but has since tightened in national and battleground state polls.
'He knows Mitt Romney had a better night at the first debate,' Obama spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said of the president. 'The American people should expect to see a much more energised President Obama.'
Ed Gillespie, senior adviser to the Romney campaign, quipped that the former Massachusetts governor would be prepared regardless of Obama's adjustments: 'The president can change his style. He can change his tactics. He can't change his record. '
Obama spent the day with aides in swing state Virginia, while Romney stayed close to his Boston-area home ahead of Tuesday's prime-time, town hall-style debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, exactly three weeks before the November 6 election.
Romney's advisers suggested the Republican nominee would continue to moderate his message - in tone, if not substance - as he did in the October 3 meeting to help broaden his appeal to the narrow slice of undecided voters. In recent days, Romney has promised his tax plan would not benefit the wealthy, emphasised his work with Democrats as Massachusetts governor and downplayed plans to strengthen the nation's abortion laws.
He told an Iowa newspaper this week, for example, that he would not pursue abortion-related legislation if elected. That's in direct conflict with last year's pledge to the anti-abortion group, the Susan B. Anthony List, to cut federal funding from Planned Parenthood and support legislation to 'protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion'.
'I think Mitt Romney's performance was, indeed, magical and theatrical. Magical and theatrical largely because for 90 minutes he walked away from a campaign he had been running for more than six years previous to that,' Obama senior campaign adviser Robert Gibbs said of the first debate.
Romney on Sunday released a new television spot showcasing footage from running mate Paul Ryan's first and only face off with Vice President Joe Biden last week. The ad features clips of Ryan saying the government 'can't keep spending money we don't have'.
The comments are juxtaposed with video from the debate of Biden laughing.
Aides said the president was clear-eyed about the need to have a better showing in the second meeting. After a listless first performance, Obama was focused on delivering more pointed and aggressive responses.
He was ensconced in hours of debate practice on Sunday at Kingsmill Resort, a luxury vacation spot in Williamsburg, Virginia. The campaign picked the riverfront Virginia resort in part to get the president away from distractions at the White House.
Some of Obama's official duties, including the attack in Libya that led to the death of four Americans, forced the president to cancel or cut short some of his prep sessions ahead of the first debate, and aides acknowledge he entered the first face-off with less practice than they had hoped.
Aides said Obama and his team were both studying up on policy and holding mock debates, featuring Democratic senator John Kerry playing the role of Romney. Anita Dunn, a former Obama aide brought back to help with debate preparations, was playing the role of debate moderator Candy Crowley.