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

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo

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.

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