Obama, Romney hunker down for debate prep

President Obama is hunkering down in the Vegas suburbs, surrounded by his most senior advisers for the next two days as he crams for the first debate with Mitt Romney.

Seasoned political operative Ron Klein is leading the preparations with Sen. John Kerry playing Romney in mock debates.

Other advisers in Nevada to support the president include Jack Lew, Gene Sperling, Brian Deese, David Axelrod, Anita Dunn, Ben Rhodes and Jon Favreau.

The president hasn't had large time blocks to practice in the last weeks of September, with the duties of commander in chief requiring his full attention. But with no distractions at a secluded desert resort, Obama and his team will spend the next two and a half days preparing for the biggest debate so far of the election.

Mitt Romney on the other hand has scheduled many days in recent weeks devoted to debate practice. Like the Obama team, the Romney camp hasn't discussed strategy with the media. But the Republican challenger has faced off with Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, standing in for the president. Romney will also get some time in Denver, adjusting to the time difference and altitude ahead of Wednesday night's main event.

The first presidential debate between a challenger and a seated incumbent president can be known as an equalizer. The moment Romney takes the stage, he and arguable the most powerful politician in the world will share a stage for 90 minutes - divided equally by the moderate between the two candidates.

The Obama camp knows Romney needs a game changing moment in the race. Downplaying expectations for the president, senior advisers say a game changer would mean a shift in the polls, not just a memorable line in the debate.

"When they say this will be a game changing performance and this will change the course of the race, the facts you have to look at, is where do the polls stand come next Friday, Saturday, Sunday in places like Ohio," campaign spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters Sunday. "Is it a 2-point gap? Is it tied? That's what game changing mean, not the kind of zingers that you deliver on Wednesday night."