Presidential Debates 2012: 3 Biggest Things to Watch for During Each Obama vs Romney Debate

With all the talk lately, you’d think Wednesday's debate is the end all be all in presidential campaign, but there are actually three more presidential debates this season. All of the debates are spaced about six days (though one is spaced twelve) apart in the month of October and range across subject matter and style. While the media will spend the majority of each debatewaiting for that “Oops!” moment or that subtle jab, knowing when, where, and the format of the debate can help you know how to get the most out of the precious moments.

1) Denver Debate, October 3

The first debate is Wednesday, October 3at the University of Denver in Colorado. The host, Jim Lehrer, is experienced at moderating presidential debates, so he will know when to let the candidates go at it a bit, and when to reel them in when they wax poetic. The topic is on domestic policy, so expect Romney to hammer on about the economy and for Obama to speak of Romney encouraging the plans that brought on this mess in the first place.

What to watch out for: Romney, feeling baited by Republican critics, will go on the attack early against Obama. Whether Obama brushes it off “coolly” or hits right back could set the mood for the entire debate.

2) Hofstra Debate, October 16

The second presidential debate takes place at Hofstra University in New York on October 16th and is moderated by Candy Crowley of CNN. It’s a town hall format about foreign and domestic policy with a crowd of independent voters. Town hall means we can expect to hear a lot of stump speech responses and feigned sympathy. These types of debates are more for the public to gauge the candidates’ demeanor than to actual find out his policies. 

What to watch out for: There’s always that one audience member with a real tear-jerking story that directly confronts one of the candidates saying that their plan will make it worse and/or caused it in the first place.

3) Florida Debate, October 22

The third and final presidential debate focuses on foreign policy, is hosted by Bob Schieffer, and will take place in Florida, at Lynn University. Foreign policy is something of a strong point for Obama, but we can expect Romney to push back with some challenges on the president’s handling of the Arab Spring. However, Obama will use every opportunity to cast Mitt Romney as inexperienced in foreign policy except when outsourcing jobs.

What to watch out for: The topic of Israel always comes up in presidential debates on foreign policy and it certainly will here. While Obama has his share of critics, real substance may actual come out if he or Schieffer asks Romney to elaborate his comments on the Palestinians having “no interest” in peace.

People are expecting these three debates to be as interesting as rhetorical football. The election is still more likely to be changed by events outside the U.S. than domestically, let alone in debates, but the debates will serve as a good way to see the candidates pressured to talk about some rather uncomfortable things. And it’s an amazing chance to see them deal uncomfortably with each other.