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Pre-Debate Meal: Romney Has Veggie Burger, Obama Has Steak

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BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — Voters watching the final presidential debate at home may have missed what happened before and after President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney took the stage on Monday.

Here’s what viewers missed:

THE PREGAME:

Call it a “good luck” meal: Before the debate, aides said Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dined on steak and potatoes, the same meal they shared before the second presidential debate. The president also spent some downtime with two longtime friends: Mike Ramos and Marty Nesbitt.

For lunch, Romney had a veggie burger, Cajun-spiced fries and a vanilla milkshake from a nearby Burger Fi restaurant.

Romney and his family were staying at a beachfront Marriott hotel, where his sons and five of his 18 grandkids mingled with staff ahead of the debate. Members of Romney’s family rode in the motorcade to the debate, in vans labeled “Family 1″ and “Family 2.” They spilled out of the vans into the darkened parking lot and walked into the hall together.

Before the two candidates took the stage, Romney watched his grandchildren play Jenga, now something of a pre-debate tradition.

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THE WAITING:

In the moments before the debate, moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News asked the audience to be “quiet as mice” so the debate would be “worthy of the presidency of the greatest country in the world.” Schieffer carried a purple binder to the desk and sat in silence before the candidates joined him on stage at Lynn University.

When he entered the hall, Romney cordially greeted his rival. “Good to see you again,” Romney said, with a broad smile.

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THE SOUNDS:

As Obama, his voice rising, sought to discredit Romney on whether there should still be troops in Iraq, the shutter clicks of cameras echoed throughout the hall. Romney got a few snickers from members of the audience when he said he wouldn’t give Russian President Vladimir Putin “more flexibility” after the election.

When Romney and Obama quarreled over military spending and the budget, Obama interjected — “I’m going to answer the first question” — and drew some more chuckles from the audience.

The audience again laughed when Obama dug into Romney’s criticism about the size of the Navy in nearly a century, telling his Republican challenger that back then “we also had horses and bayonets.”

Schieffer drew laughs when he said they could all agree that they “love teachers.”

And during Obama’s closing statement, the audience chuckled quietly when Obama said there have been “way too many TV commercials” during the campaign.

There was no audible laughter in the hall when the president made his earlier joke about the 1980s wanting their foreign policy back.

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THE BODY LANGUAGE:

When Romney went into the long explanation about why he called Obama’s trip an “apology tour” and noting that the president skipped Israel, President Obama came all the way forward in his chair as if moving into a more aggressive posture as he prepared to challenge Romney. When listening to Romney, Obama also occasionally twisted his silver pen between both hands.

During Romney’s answers, the president seldom looked down after his first debate earned him criticism for caring more about the podium than his rival. In some cases, several times during a given Romney answer, he signaled to Schieffer that he wanted to interject by subtly raising his left index finger in a gesture to the moderator.

Romney, meanwhile, offered plenty of hand-chopping on the table when speaking. He was more restrained in his body language.

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THE END:

As the moderator wrapped up the debate, the audience stood and cheered at the end of the debate, offering steady applause after spending the past 90 minutes in virtual silence. The lights came on in the debate hall as Obama and Romney exchanged handshakes with the moderator.

In near unison to Schieffer, they told him “nice job.”

The pair then walked around the desk to shake hands and pat each other on the arms.

The two candidates were then joined by their spouses; Obama and Romney hugged their own wives almost simultaneously. The Obamas were without their children; Ben Romney, one of the nominee’s sons, was the first of Romney’s family to greet the president and first lady. Obama then bent over to shake hands with one of the Romney grandchildren, who was wearing a blue-checked shirt.

Romney hugged his children and then the two candidates stood shoulder-to-shoulder on stage, surrounded by the Romney family. The former governor picked up one of his grandchildren as Obama shared a laugh with Ann Romney. Tagg Romney came over and patted the president on the back.

Obama then waved to the crowd, which responded with applause. Both candidates then walked over to the front row of the audience to shake hands before departing shortly after.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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