LAS VEGAS Even at a resort hotel, President Obama says spending all day prepping for a debate "is a drag."
"They're making me do my homework," he said in a phone call with a political volunteer during a visit to his campaign field office in Henderson, about a 30-minute drive from his debate camp at Lake Las Vegas.
He said the debate preparation was going great, but "basically they're keeping me indoors all the time."
But they did allow him to take a break and drop by his local campaign storefront. He walked in with six pizzas as a way of saying thanks to the 20 or so volunteers there.
"I know everybody has been working really hard," he said, though he mistakenly said there were 34 days left to the campaign. His volunteers knew there were 36 days left.
"Whatever it is," he said, "it's really coming up quick." He said the race in Nevada was going to be "be close all across the country."
He also sounded like he was worried about some kind of October surprise surfacing during this month.
"There are going to be a number of other things we can't expect over the next couple of weeks," he said. He didn't elaborate, but he delivered a decidedly optimistic refrain.
"We're gonna get this done. We're gonna win," he said.
Neither White House spokesman Jay Carney nor campaign press secretary Jen Psaki would divulge any details of the president's debate prep. Psaki did say once again that President Obama's debate coaches were focused on combating his tendency to give long-winded answers. She also said President Obama has not had as much debate prep as hoped because of the demands of his office.
Both the White House and the campaign were ready to return fire at Mitt Romney for the blunt criticism he leveled in print at President Obama's conduct of foreign policy.
"In recent years, President Obama has allowed our leadership to atrophy," wrote Romney in an op-ed in Monday's Wall Street Journal.
He charged that American values "have been misapplied and misunderstood by a president who thinks weakness will win favor with our adversaries."
Psaki dismissed Romney's criticism and labeled his efforts at foreign policy ads as "worthless, erratic and irresponsible."
Carney stressed that President Obama has delivered on his promises to end the war in Iraq, wind down U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan, eliminate Osama bin Laden and strengthen American alliances abroad.
"This is a record that I think is very strong," said Carney.
The last of the three presidential debates, to be held October 22 in Boca Raton, Fla., will focus on foreign policy. The aides said President Obama looks forward to it.
He'll probably be kept inside for a couple of days prepping for that one as well.