WASHINGTON // The US president, Barack Obama, and his Republican rival Mitt Romney took time off the campaign trail yesterday for secluded debate practice, underscoring the stakes for both in their first televised encounter tonight.
Mr Obama was at a resort in Henderson, Nevada, while Mr Romney spent most of the day at a hotel on the outskirts of Denver, Colorado, the site of the first of their three debates in the coming three weeks.
With just five weeks until election day, they dispatched their wives and running mates to court voters in key states, such as the critical battleground of Ohio.
"Now we're entering what we call the debate and choice phase of this campaign," Paul Ryan, the Republicans' vice presidential nominee, told Milwaukee's 1130 WISN talk radio.
After arriving in Denver on Monday, Mr Romney told thousands of supporters that the debate was "not so much winning and losing or even the people themselves - the president and myself - it's about something bigger than that".
Mr Romney then outlined his intentions to get the US working again. "Jobs is job one under my administration."
His campaign announced a new television commercial yesterday that argues Mr Obama has raised taxes on the middle class.
Mr Ryan, who has his own debate with vice president Joe Biden next week, said he has not received any advice from his predecessor, Sarah Palin, the 2008 vice-presidential nominee. "I don't really know her. I met her once a few years ago," he said.
Both candidates on Monday reached out to Hispanic voters, a growing constituency in the battleground state of Colorado.
The White House has said Mr Obama intends to designate the home of labour leader Cesar Chavez as a national monument during a campaign swing through California next week.
* With additional reporting from Bloomberg News