By Sam Youngman
WOODSTOCK, Vermont (Reuters) - As President Barack Obama's Democrats are rallying in North Carolina, Republican challenger Mitt Romney is going through what aides describe as "intensive" training here for the three upcoming debates with Obama.
Romney, who spent Labor Day on his boat in New Hampshire while Obama was campaigning in swing states, is spending most of the week in this tiny, rustic town at the home of Kerry Healey, who was Massachusetts' lieutenant governor when Romney was governor from 2003 to 2007.
Aides said Romney will likely return to campaigning in several key states by the end of the week, but that for now his focus is on the three October debates for which he began preparing in June. This week is the first time Romney has squared off against Ohio Senator Rob Portman, a fellow Republican who was Romney's choice to stand in for Obama during the practice sessions.
The sessions begin with an hourlong mock debate, with campaign aide Peter Flaherty, Romney's point man for conservative constituencies, in the role of moderator.
After the debate, Romney and his advisers analyze the session. After a break for lunch, they conduct another hourlong mock debate.
Romney's running mate, U.S. Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, has continued to campaign during the Democrats' convention.
A senior adviser to Romney says the campaign decided that the best use of Romney's most valuable resource - his time - was to prepare to face Obama, whom the adviser called "a good debater ... steeped in policy. We think this is time well spent."
There will be three presidential debates - and one vice presidential debate between Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden - in October, starting with an Obama-Romney debate on October 3 in Denver.
(Editing by David Lindsey and Doina Chiacu)