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Paul Ryan Downplays Mitt Romney’s Debate Performance, Admits to ‘Missteps’

GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan today downplayed expectations for Mitt Romney’s debate performance Wednesday, saying the campaign’s goal is not necessarily to score a decisive rhetorical win but to present Americans with a clear choice between the GOP nominee and President Barack Obama.

“I don’t think one event is going to make or break this campaign,” the Wisconsin lawmaker said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

He noted that Obama is a “a very gifted speaker. The man’s been on the national stage for many years, 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 did not acknowledge Romney’s recent experience in the GOP primary debates, which Democrats have argued might give him the upper hand.

Ryan said Romney would show what kind of person he is and what kind of president he would be.

“That, to me, is what matters in this particular debate and all the debates. … I know what President Obama’s done, I know all of these empty promises and broken promises, I know about the ugly stagnant economy. What [are] Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan offering to get us back on track? And I think that’s what we’ll get out of Wednesday. And if we get that out of Wednesday, then the country understands the choice they have to make.”

Ryan also said that the Romney-Ryan campaign has made some missteps, but he insisted that conservatives – such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker – who have complained of a lackluster campaign do not have a full picture of the dynamism the GOP ticket is presenting to voters at campaign stops in battleground states.

“So I hear the handwringing in Washington and that Washington likes to talk about process,” Ryan said. “Come out into these states with us and see what we’re talking about. See the forceful case we’re making for economic opportunity. See the specific plans we’re putting on the table, the bold solutions.”

Asked to identify the missteps he believes the campaign has made, Ryan referenced Romney’s videotaped comments about the “47 percent” of Americans who don’t pay income tax and whom Romney described as dependent on government handouts. Ryan said the comments were “an inarticulate way to describe what we’re trying to do to create prosperity and upward mobility and reduce dependency by getting people off welfare [and] back to work. So, yeah, those – we’ve had some missteps, but at the end of the day, the choice is really clear, and we’re giving people a very clear choice.”

When pressed by host Chris Wallace about polls showing Romney trailing Obama in key swing states such as Ohio and Florida, Ryan suggested that the race would be much closer than those surveys show.

“First of all, the polls are close. This is going to be a close race,” Ryan said. He added, “Well, we’re running against an incumbent president. We’re running against an incumbent president with incredible resources.”

As for his own upcoming debate against Vice President Joseph Biden, Ryan acknowledged he has been watching tapes of the former Delaware Senator in preparation.

“He’s fast on the cuff. He’s a witty guy. He knows who he is, and he’s been doing this for 40 years,” Ryan said. “So you’re not going to rattle Joe Biden. Joe Biden’s been on the national stage, he ran for president twice, he’s a sitting vice president.”

But just as he hopes Romney will do, Ryan said his goal “is to give people an alternative. A very different governing philosophy, different policies. And Joe is very good on the attack. Joe is very good at trying to confuse the issues so that the person leaves the debate confused about who stands for what. My job is to make sure that they’re not – they’re not confused about what we stand for and what they stand for.”

Asked whether he’s hoping Biden will make the kind of rhetorical mistakes he has become somewhat famous for, Ryan said Biden is more disciplined during debates than he is on the campaign trail.

“I’m not counting on a gaffe, no,” he said.