Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on CNN's "State of the Union" Obama would be in the uncomfortable position of defending his record without the luxury of raising distraction issues.
"We have talked about Mitt Romney's tax return; we've talked about the tape of his speech at a campaign fundraiser and we've talked about his dog being on top of the car, but they are not talking about what they have done," said Graham.
Graham said the stage was set for Romney to break away from Obama in the race for undecided voters. He said the sluggish economy and the historical trend of independents rejecting an incumbent played in the Republicans' favor.
"During the debates, we're about to focus on four years of Barack Obama, not everything just about what Mitt Romney may have said or putting his dog on the car," Graham predicted.
Graham's prediction was countered by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who told CNN the president was already attracting more independents before the debates begin. "We're not taking it for granted, but we do have momentum coming out of the convention," Durbin said. "Some of the problems and mistakes of the Romney campaign have given the president more traction in the battleground states with working families."