TODAY   |  September 28, 2012

NBC News team on where the race is headed

NBC’s Tom Brokaw, David Gregory and Chuck Todd round up the campaign events this week and look ahead to the debates. They also discuss Obama’s new ad campaign and Mitt Romney’s attempt to contain fallout from his “47 percent” comment.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> brokaw is here, david gregory , mott railer of "meet the dress" and chuck todd , the nbc chief white house correspondent. too many titles, we're out of time. the president's closing argument. a two-minute ad he put out in a sign of the campaign, a sign of confidence, chuck, we'll start with you?

>> we looked and did some of our own polling, did it the last couple of weeks and among people who say they will vote before election day , the president wins 2-1. that's why they are doing it. all about early voting . half of the battleground states , 50% or more of the voters will vote early, florida, colorado, nevada, north carolina .

>> david, is there a risk at all if the obama campaign gets ahead of itself here. we know some of the polls have showed widening margins and a little bit in florida, too, but it's tight in many swing states , five and a half weeks until election day and a debate coming up.

>> they fully recognize all the pitfalls of getting cocky and thinking the race is over. president has detail and mitt romney doesn't, wants to make this a choice, not a referendum on his time in office and he understands incumbents are most likely to stumble going into the debates so this is a relentless campaign on the president's side and they recognize all the pitfalls.

>> let's talk about romney 's soft sell. the president south with an ad. romney has an ad out where he looks straight at the cameras, kind of that gauzy, i'm talking to you, i care about everybody. tom, how much damage does he have to repair from the 47% remark?

>> what's striking to me the number of conservative commentators lining up against him. charles krauthammer in the " washington post " is talking about he needs to goback big. he needs to be more defined in his policies, especially about the middle east . romney turned out to give the president air cover . there are serious questions about what happened in libya in the absence of security, and what is our middle east policy , but romney 's missteps really have given the president more camouflage than he would have expected. we'll learn a lot more next week when we have the rumble in the rocky mountains .

>> that column, a conservative column asking for more details has been written every week by somebody about mitt romney for the last six months. there's your problem.

>> and it says there's a leadership vacuum. the republicans i talked to say this is no longer about keeping score on policy. this is not about ideology. this is about can you see this person being president for another four years or for the first time? that's what they are faced with.

>> on this question of empathy though, isn't it too late for mitt romney to change the way people view him? he began his campaign on june 2nd , 2011 . the country knows who he is for the most part, sending ann romney talking about his health care plan in massachusetts and how that covered more people that not, can he change the way people look at him?

>> i don't know. i think it really depends on the debate and what happens in the debate will depend on how president obama performs against him and how he comes after him. i think the president's very lucky to have the unemployment numbers come out next week, after that first debate, rather than this week, before the debate, because that would give him an opening. we've seen these debates take unusual turns in the past. president ford liberated poland when he was debating, you'll remember, and jimmy carter , he talked about nuclear policy with amy and ronald reagan looked and said there you go again, and it changed it for ronald reagan .

>> let's talk about that fight night. a lot of commentators think of because where romney is it's a make-or-break moment for him. i love to hear all the commentators fall over themselves to compliment each other for once on the campaign trail. you had mitt romney saying the president obviously is a very eloquent gifted speaker. david axelrod said i think the invasion of normandy took less preparation than romney is putting into these debates. who is the better debater?

>> i think they are both mediocre debaters. president obama didn't win any of those debates, joe biden won them. the harvard and yale debates, will be paul ryan and joe biden . they will be better at it. romney is good in a group setting, not done a lot of one-on-one. john mccain wasn't the best debater either. he doesn't blow anybody away.

>> i spoke with nate silver from the "new york times" who has looked at all the polls and how much ground mitt romney has to gain, as much as seven points, a lot to gain in some of the key battleground states through a debate performance when two guys can be very well prepared, one sitting president.

>> kerry did it though against bush.

>> i don't know that he made up all that ground.

>> it's not the debate, what is it for mitt romney the last five and a half weeks of this campaign to change it?

>> i think he does have to go big. he has to have a couple of really big ideas that connect with the american people and where they are. the economy is slowly getting better. there are real doubts about medicare plan that paul ryan has put in place that is beginning to hurt them in the battleground states . i don't think there's one thing that can turn it around for him except the ufo theory which i keep coming back, to and we just had it again in the last two weeks. the terrorist attack on our libyan embassy. things like that can change these elections very quickly. you'll remember when john kerry was running against george bush on the friday before the election, osama bin laden came out with a screech against america and you never know about our national security .