Apparently, Chris Christie didn’t get the memo asking surrogates of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney to temper expectations for Wednesday night’s critical debate against President Barack Obama.
The New Jersey governor instead boldly predicted a game-changing event that will alter the current trajectory of a presidential race that has seen Romney fall behind in several swing states, according to the latest polls.
“Come Thursday morning, the entire narrative of this race is going to change,” Christie said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“You saw the change in those polls happen very quickly, and I’m here to tell you this morning it can happen very quickly back the other way,” Christie added. “And I think the beginning of that is Wednesday night, when Governor Romney, for the first time, gets on the same stage as the president of the United States, and people can make a direct comparison about them and their visions for the future.’’
The bravado was decidedly different from statements made during the run-up to the first of three presidential debates by other Romney surrogates, who have gone to great lengths to cast their candidate as the underdog against Obama.
Romney’s running mate, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, hailed the president as a “very gifted speaker” on “Fox News Sunday.”
“The man’s been on the national stage for many years,” Ryan said. “He’s an experienced debater, he’s done these kinds of debates before. This is Mitt’s first time on this kind of a stage.”
Ryan also downplayed the importance of the first debate, which will focus on domestic policy.
“I don’t think one event is going to make or break this campaign,” he said.
Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican nominee four years ago, sent the same signal on CNN’s “State of the Union,” saying that he anticipated record viewership of Wednesday’s debate, but no breakthrough moments.
“I can’t remember the last time there was one of these comments that grabbed everybody’s attention because, frankly, the candidates are too well prepared,” McCain said. “They’re well-scripted.”
But Christie, who was the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention in late August, suggested the debate will be significant because voters are “going to be able to see these two candidates next to each other” for the first time and because many voters have not paid close attention to the race until now.
“They’re going to start tuning in on Wednesday night and when they do, Governor Romney is going to lay out his vision for a better and greater America, for greater opportunity for all of our citizens,” he said. “And I think that’s when you’re going to see this race really start to tighten and then move in Governor Romney’s direction.”
Recent polls show Romney trailing in the key battleground states of Ohio, Florida, Iowa and Virginia.
David Plouffe, a senior adviser to the Obama campaign, appeared on “Meet the Press” after Christie. He quickly used the New Jersey governor’s remarks in an attempt to put all the debate pressure on Romney.
“I think Governor Christie is just articulating what Governor Romney’s campaign believes, that they’re going to change this race fundamentally,” Plouffe said.