WASHINGTON—Saying he was excited to “finally get out there” and defend his policies in front of the entire nation, President Barack Obama told reporters he was energized and eager to participate in his first debate of the 2012 election cycle Tuesday night.

“Everyone—myself, my opponent, pundits, the media—we all recognize how crucial the first debate is, and that’s why I can’t wait to knock it out of the park,” Obama said Monday during a break from his near constant debate training sessions, which he described as essential for making a strong first impression on viewers. “After all the sound bites and attack ads, it’s great to at long last have the opportunity to appear alongside my opponent and offer a full-throated argument in support of my plan to return our middle class to prosperity.”

“You don’t get many chances to clearly articulate your policies and rebut those of your opponent in front of the entire nation,” Obama continued. “And I don’t intend to let this opportunity slip by.”

Telling reporters he needs to be at top of his game if he hopes to win over independent voters in the first debate, the president said he has been hard at work honing his rhetorical skills so he can set the tone for the rest of the campaign. He noted that in particular he has focused on not being afraid to go on the offensive and on perfecting his body language, which he said would be “absolutely essential” for gaining the upper hand in the first contest between the candidates.

Moreover, after months of being attacked on the campaign trail, Obama acknowledged he was looking forward to finally dispelling what he described as baseless allegations leveled against his administration, saying he would “relish the chance to set the record straight once and for all.”

In addition, sources confirmed Obama has eagerly awaited “this, the first of three debates,” so he can seize on the Romney campaign’s numerous gaffes and repeatedly draw attention to the GOP nominee’s shifting policies. Hoping to employ Romney’s own words against him, Obama said it was vital that he use his initial debate appearance to “drive home” the message that his opponent is unprincipled and out of touch.

“Look, it’s the first debate, which many people would argue is the most important of them all, so I have a responsibility here to come out swinging and really set the pace for the next two matchups,” Obama said. “Now, Gov. Romney is also aware of just how important the first debate is, so we expect him to be on the attack. But now is my first chance to really show people I’m completely focused and not at all rusty, so expect a spirited discussion.”

Admitting a subpar performance on his part could give Romney a significant bump in the polls and critically shift the electoral landscape just weeks before Election Day, Obama vowed to approach the first debate very seriously. The president said he and his team had devised rebuttals to every possible Romney answer and were working on ways he could stay bold, aggressive, and on-message throughout the evening, adding that he did not want to take any chances in the first debate and be forced to rely on a rebound in the next two.

Obama also told reporters he was fully aware that the first debate would be watched by as many as 70 million Americans, and that “this is the big one.”

“The bottom line is that I have a much stronger plan for middle-class families, I actually have consistent and detailed policies on the economy and the deficit, and I have proven myself to be strong on national security,” Obama said. “All I need to do in the first debate, really, is make this distinction to the American people, and then this first debate should pretty much seal my reelection.”

“Frankly, it’d be pretty embarrassing if I couldn’t pull that off,” Obama added.