With their proxies dispatched to do battle on the weekly round of political talks shows, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney went to ground on Sunday to swot up ahead of a crucial second presidential debate in the still tight electoral race.
Their head-to-head in New York on Tuesday serves as a chance for the White House incumbent to redeem himself after a lacklustre first encounter with his Republican rival.
A resulting bump in the polls has reinvigorated the Romney cause with three weeks to go until America goes to the polls. But taking a cue from his deputy, Joe Biden – who opted for full-throttled attack in his debate with Republican counterpart, Paul Ryan – pundits are expecting a more combative president in this week's town-hall-style encounter.
The candidates will be answering questions from members of the audience during the televised event. The less formal setting could work to Obama's advantage – the Democrat often appears more at ease in such settings, especially compared with Romney, who can come across as aloof.
In any event, the president is seemingly taking no chances.
While his Republican rival was pressing the flesh in the key battleground state of Ohio on Saturday, Obama had already retreated to Williamsburg, Virginia, which will serve as his debate camp headquarters until Tuesday's clash.
His aides have suggested he is devoting more time to practise for the event than he did a fortnight ago.
Romney returned to his home in Massachusetts late on Saturday for his preparations. His campaign has seemingly been buoyed up by a strong performance in the first debate.
Despite Biden faring well in last week's vice-presidential head-to-head, the Republicans have continued to make the campaign running in recent days, notably over the issue of whether the White House knew of a request to expand security at its consulate in Benghazi, Libya, before a deadly attack by militants.
Obama will be looking to halt his rival's momentum with a better performance on Tuesday.
On Sunday, his campaign adviser, Robert Gibbs, hinted at a more aggressive approach. "I think you'll see somebody who's very passionate about the choice that our country faces, and putting that choice in front of voters," he told CNN's State of the Union.
The Romney camp, however, seemed largely unperturbed, with aide Ed Gillespie saying: "Well, the president can change his style, he can change his tactics. He can't change his record and he can't change his policies." – © Guardian News and Media 2012