(CNN) – Stepping away from the intricacies and attacks that have dominated the 2012 campaign season, the candidates spoke in interviews aired Sunday in more broad terms of leadership qualities, past presidents' legacies and how they unwind amid the whirlwind race for the White House.
President Barack Obama told CBS News that he is a night owl. While his wife and two daughters retire earlier for the evening, the president stays awake, perched on the Truman balcony to read, write and reflect into the early hours of the morning, he said.
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As for Republican nominee Mitt Romney, he said he prays every night before bed around 10 p.m., after speaking with his wife Ann, who's often elsewhere on the trail, for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Romney, who until recently has steered away from discussing his faith on the campaign trail, said his prayers are a private matter but he mostly prays for wisdom and understanding.
"I seek to understand things that I don't understand," said Romney in an interview that aired Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes."
The two candidates were asked to describe the essential qualities of a leader as well as admirable qualities of past presidents.
Obama said leadership "more than anything is about setting a course and describing a vision for people." He added that vision "isn't always realized immediately," pointing to the legacy bore from Abraham Lincoln's vision of a single union requiring the sacrifice of the bloody Civil War.
Romney noted John Adams as a person with "extraordinary character" and "a relationship with his spouse who may have been even brighter than he."
"We saw in him an individual who was less concerned about public opinion than he was about doing what he thought was right for the country," said Romney. "And even though he was defeated in his run for reelection, he did what he thought was right for America. And I respect that kind of character."
Romney said an essential quality of a leader is the "capacity to build trust in the people he or she works with."
For his part, Obama said persistence is a quality he admires in the history of presidents.
"Being able to plow through, being able to stay buoyant in the face of challenges," said the incumbent, facing a barrage of attacks for what critics bill as a less-than-stellar first term, laden with stagnant unemployment numbers and a still-ailing economy.
"I think that's a characteristic of the American people and I think our best presidents are able to tap into that resilience and that strength and that grit and be inspired by it."
Asked what he'd like to ultimately be known for if succeeds in his bid for the White House, Romney said his big idea, his message to the American people, is to foster the kind of freedom that has allowed the United States to lead the world.
"I want to restore the kind of freedom that has always driven America's economy. And that's allowed us to be the shining city on the hill," said Romney. "The kind of freedom that has brought people here from all over the world. I want people to come here, legally, to want to be here. I want the best and brightest to say America's the place of opportunity, because of the freedom there to pursue your dreams."
Meanwhile Obama, who has faced criticism for an administration devoid of 'big ideas,' said his central purpose is to rekindle the American idea that if people work hard, in America they can flourish.
"I think what Americans properly are focused on right now are just the bread and butter basics of making sure our economy works for working people," said Obama. "And if we can accomplish that, there's no bigger idea than that. That's the idea that has attracted people to our shores for generations."