President Obama and Governor Romney go at it again tonight at Hofstra University in a town hall debate. Here are the Top 10 things to watch for in the debate:
1) Obama's aggressiveness
Joe Biden went over board with his unprofessional smirks and chuckles during last week's VP debate. Don't expect the same from the President. He will be tough on Romney and hit back at any charges, but expect a much more presidential presentation than you saw from VP Biden.
2) Romney's personality
This is a town hall setting with average citizens in attendance asking the questions. Romney needs to speak directly to those voters and into the camera. He needs to demonstrate an ability to connect with average people on a personal level. Expect Romney to largely ignore the President and focus in on speaking with the audience in attendance. This is his night to break his cold image.
3) Candy Crowley
She is an aggressive reporter with a strong reputation for sifting through political BS. There will be follow up questions from her and she will try to nail both candidates down on specifics in their proposals. Let's see how much the candidates listen to her. I doubt she will get trampled.
4) The Questions
Crowley will have the final say on which questions from the audience get asked. What topics will she zone in on? The economy, Afghanistan, Libya and the national debt are sure to come up. How aggressive will the questioners be and will anyone stump the candidates?
Romney is going to strike hard at the President on the mishandling of the 9/11/12 attack in Benghazi, Libya. President Obama will be ready for it and has surely practiced his response. There is an opening for Romney on this issue if he can tie this failure together with the growing concern about extremists in north Africa, American causalities in Afghanistan and the fear of a nuclear Iran. Obama can blunt the critique if he uses the debate as an opportunity to explain the whole story in detail and take responsibility for it.
6) Body Language
These town halls can be awkward. The candidates are totally exposed with nothing more than stools to sit on. When do you sit? Stand? Pace? Walk up to a questioner? Look into the camera? There is no science to this, but most politicians navigate it well because they are very social people and their body language is never threatening. However, these two candidates are not known as social butterflies so this could get awkward.
It doesn't get much more unscripted than a town hall so candidates need to be on their toes. Sometimes a good joke softens the mood. Handling an off the wall question that you didn't see coming is always a tough moment. Something will happen tonight that neither candidate could be prepared for and we will see who it happens to and how they respond.
8) Who wins?
Romney doesn't need to win this debate, but if he does, he could seal up a win in 3 or 4 battleground states. Obama needs a win. He can get it by appearing presidential, answering questions assertively, showing engagement with the audience and launching some sort of counter attack against Romney. Romney was not tested in the first debate so we are not sure how he will respond to grueling criticism. If the debate is a draw, Romney gets the advantage because his momentum will continue.
As always, a big gaffe can be a game changer. A zinger can insight a big reaction. Will we see one tonight?
The first debate had an enormous TV audience. This one is expected to be big as well, but probably not as big as the first debate. With ALCS game 3 between the Yankees and Tigers on tonight, you can expect a huge dip in live viewership in the swings states of Michigan and Ohio. There are also two major World Cup Qualifier matches tonight featuring the United States vs. Guatemala and Mexico vs. El Salvador. Expect live viewership among Hispanics to be way down.
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