CNN — The conventions are over, the running mate is in place, and the campaigns are looking ahead to the three presidential debates as the last chance to make the case to voters for the two men vying for the White House.
Fittingly, Republican nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are busy preparing for the big events, the first of which takes place October 3 in Denver.
Each campaign has lined up stand-ins for their rivals to help the candidates prepare. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts will play Romney in Obama's prep sessions, while his colleague, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, will portray Obama.
On Air Force One Monday, Obama campaign press secretary Jen Psaki claimed Romney was preparing more for the debates "than any candidate in modern history," saying the long schedule of debates during this year's GOP primary contests made for a stark comparison to the fact that Obama hasn't participated in a debate since 2008.
"They've made clear that his performing well is a make-or-break piece for their campaign," Psaki said of the Romney team's efforts.
She also alluded to one piece of Obama's debate preparation confirmed over the weekend by David Axelrod, a campaign senior adviser.
"He's got to speak shorter, that's all," Axelrod told Reuters. "He just hasn't had to do that for the last four years so that's a part of the discipline of preparing for these debates."
Psaki acknowledged Monday the "shorter debate format is not always conducive to someone who gives more substantive answers, which we know he tends to do."
Last week Romney spelled out his own method of debate prep, telling ABC News he was worried Obama wouldn't tell the truth during the events.
"I think the challenge that I'll have in the debate is that the president tends to, how shall I say it, to say things that aren't true," Romney said in an interview that aired Friday.
Romney, who spent several days in debate prep at the beginning of the month as the Democratic National Convention was underway, said he's been studying Obama's performance at previous debates. The Republican presidential nominee added he's still trying to outline his strategy.
"Am I going to spend my time correcting things that aren't quite accurate? Or am I going to spend my time talking about the things I want to talk about?'" he said. "That's a judgment you make."
After the first debate in Denver, subsequent face-offs will take place October 16 in Hempstead, New York and October 22 in Boca Raton, Florida. CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, anchor of "State of the Union," will moderate the October 16 debate.
Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential nominee, face off on October 11 in Danville, Kentucky.
In a CNN/ORC survey released last week, most voters said they thought Obama would have an advantage in the three debates. Fifty-nine percent of likely voters questioned in the survey said the president is more likely to do a better job than Romney in the debates, with 34% saying that Romney will beat Obama.
CNN's Ashley Killough and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.
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