Woodstock, Vermont (CNN) - Mitt Romney offered a quick burst of public face-time Wednesday when he briefly surfaced from three days of intensive debate prep with advisers at a secluded Vermont home.
The former Massachusetts governor gave a smattering of television interviews and spoke briefly with reporters in his press corps during a three-hour excursion outside the private estate where he is staying.
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The GOP presidential nominee joined the chorus of Republicans who have seized on questions about whether Americans are better off now, four years after President Obama was elected.
"You've heard no one stand up and say that people are better off than they were four years ago," he said of speakers at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. "They really can't say that. They can't say it in all honesty."
Romney spent down time with at his New Hampshire home Sunday and Monday, then headed up to Vermont for debate prep Tuesday through Thursday. Though originally he was expected to hold campaign events during his opponents' Charlotte convention, Romney has largely been a quiet figure this week as he huddles with top advisers.
He said he had not seen first lady Michelle Obama's Tuesday night convention speech, but called the president's popular wife a "lovely person."
Asked to respond to Mrs. Obama's assertion that her husband would never slam the door on others who hoped to succeed - which some interpreted as a criticism of Romney - the Republican nominee refused to weigh in.
"I'm certainly not going to make any comments about the first lady's speech other than that I respect her, think she's a lovely person and a fine mom," he said.
In a likely preview of upcoming public remarks in New Hampshire on Friday, Romney also faulted the president for growing the both national debt and the number of Americans on food stamps.
"Forty-seven million people now on food stamps. When he came to office there were 32 million," Romney said. "There is just no way to square those numbers with the idea that America is doing better because it's not."
After picking up his pizza, Romney headed back to the home of his former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, where he has spent two days with a handful of advisers to prepare for a trio of presidential debates in October.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is playing the role of Obama in the debate scrimmage. Romney told reporters he was impressed.
"I'm just glad I won't be debating Rob Portman in the final debates," he said. "He's good."