It isn’t often that top officials in President Obama’s campaign praise rival Mitt Romney. But when it comes to the presidential debates, there is no stopping the plaudits.

“Gov. Romney is a very skilled debater,” said Obama campaign manager Jim Messina. His boss, by contrast, is long and windy, “so clearly the governor has the advantage.”

The presidential debates begin in less than two weeks, an important moment in any campaign. The Romney camp has for months argued this is the moment for their candidate to shine. With Mr. Romney lagging behind in national and most state polls, he more than ever needs to make a mark.

As a result both campaigns are working hard to shape expectations.