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Debating Mitt Romney 'not a fun thing,' says Santorum

Former GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum raised prospects for his one-time rival Mitt Romney to win Wednesday night’s presidential face-off, saying despite low expectations, the Republican’s debating skills are far better than people realize.

“I can tell you, going up against Mitt Romney is not a fun thing. He has the facts, he drills you, he stays, he’s tenacious,” the former Pennsylvania senator said on TODAY. “That’s the difference between four years ago and this time. John McCain was very passive. He let the president, candidate Obama, do whatever he wanted to do. Mitt Romney is not going to do that.”

Santorum said Romney only needs to accomplish a few goals during the 90-minute debate.

“One of them is to show he’s in command, he’s in control, he understands the job of the presidency,” he said.

If he can do that, Romney will be able to press the point that “Barack Obama can’t close the deal” he promised four years ago to, among other things, improve the nation’s economy and provide a steady presence overseas.

President Obama's deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter talks to TODAY's Savannah Guthrie.

The president won’t shy away from his record over the past four years during Wednesday’s debate, said Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager. But he will take the opportunity to stress how a second term will mean that Congress must work harder in a bipartisan fashion to break the impasse that has stymied numerous legislation.

“The American people need to see this election as a moment to break that fever, to send a message to Washington that it’s time to get things done, to work across the aisle," Cutter said on TODAY.

She said to expect Obama to press Romney on providing specific details on his plans to cut taxes and the federal budget. “The test for both candidates tonight is who is going to lay out a vision, and a detailed, specific vision, of how we’re going to move this country forward,” she said. “I think the candidate who does that will win that test.  American people sitting at home in their living rooms are looking for some details.”

Cutter also defended remarks Vice President Joe Biden made Tuesday. She stood by his statement that the middle class has been “buried over the past years” and expects the issue to come up at the debate.

“The president is rebuilding this economy in a way that’s meant to last, with a strong middle class at its core," she said. "The last thing we should do is go back to the policies that crashed the economy in the first place, and that’s what Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are promising to do.”

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