US President Barack Obama has a chance Tuesday night to do something he did not do much of during his first debate with Republican challenger Mitt Romney: convince undecided Americans to vote for him.
"Almost all of the pressure will be on Obama this time, given how poorly he performed in the first debate and how much that seemed to help Romney and change the race," Andrew Taylor, a political scientist at North Carolina State University, told Reuters.
"Obama has to steady the ship and instill confidence in Democrats again," he said.
The two men will meet in a 90-minute televised town hall-style debate beginning at 9:00 p.m. EDT [05:00 GMT] at Hofstra University in New York. The audience, chosen by the Gallup polling organization, is made up of roughly 80 undecided voters from a variety of backgrounds. Twelve of them will be selected by debate moderator Candy Crowley of CNN to ask questions. The candidate being addressed has two minutes to respond, and then his opponent gets two minutes to respond.
Several polls of likely American voters show the race is now in a statistical dead heat, a change from polls before the October 3 debate that showed Obama with a significant lead in key battleground states and elsewhere in the nation.
"You should expect that he's going to be firm, but respectful in correcting the record in the times we expect Mitt Romney will hide from and distort his own policies," Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. “He’s energized and I expect he will also be making a passionate case.”
The town hall format, which allows the candidates to speak directly to the audience and offers them an opportunity to connect with voters, differs from the more traditional style of the first debate when Obama and Romney took questions from a moderator.
"You get these questions that are very different than what they would get on 'Meet the Press,' and it also makes it very difficult to prepare when you're doing your mock debates," presidential debate expert Alan Schroeder told CBS News.
One issue both campaigns are concerned about: whether moderator Crowley will ask audience follow-up questions. Both sides would prefer the questions to come strictly from the audience, and not from a seasoned journalist who might be inclined to push for specifics. Crowley herself has said she plans to add to the conversation as she deems it relevant.
“Either go to the next question or say, ‘Wait a second, wait a second, they asked oranges, you responded apples, could you please respond to oranges?’” she said to the McClatchy news organization.