The Obama campaign may have effectively slowed former Gov. Mitt Romney's momentum after a chest-thumping debate performance by Vice President Joe Biden last Thursday. But the specter of Obama's loss in the first debate in Denver still haunts him.
This week's "town hall" format will be an interesting test for both candidates as they take questions directly from the audience: President Obama, who is often described as professorial and aloof, will have to show that he remains the charming yet inspirational candidate of 2008; Romney, who has been consistently ridiculed for his awkward manner and elitism, has to show that not only can he win debates but that he can empathize with the American people. Romney was at his best in Denver when he approached the issues like the businessman he is — rolling out the data and pitching himself as the man to fix the problem. Whether he'll be able to play this part while still looking like a concerned, engaged, and sympathetic person is a key to this debate. Obama, too, must strike a balance between refusing to surrender points to his opponent and showing confidence and respect towards the audience.
The debate will run from 9-10:30 p.m. Eastern Time. It is being hosted at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, and moderated by Candy Crowley of CNN.
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10:39 I'm not sure if bringing up the "47 percent" remarks is going to do Obama any good. Instead of focusing on what people think about him, Obama is focusing on what's wrong with Romney.
10:36 Romney is trying to turn around the misperception that he's not a caring guy. Doing a good job. I give Romney a lot of credit for being a decent guy in his personal life.
10:26 Since the first debate in Denver, cutting off the moderator has become mandatory.
10:22 Obama doesn't want to endorse an assault weapons ban. His amorphous policy proposals on reducing violence aren't going to address the issues arising from having high-powered weapons on the street. But Roney's response is even worse: single parent families? Our current president is the product of one of those.
10:15 You can't blame the Obama administration for this attack. True, the administration mishandled the PR, but Romney is playing this up more than is fair.
10:11 I still think Obama is stronger on foreign policy than Romney despite the Benghazi attacks. Let's see if Romney can prove me wrong.
10:07: Why Republicans aren't winning the Latino vote part 2: they call illegal immigrants "illegals."
10:05 Why Republicans aren't winning the Latino vote: they keep calling them Hispanics.
10:04 Obama finally starts hitting Romney on immigration. Romney is now tacking to the center on this issue, but during the primary he was much much more conservative, and he should have to pay the price for that.
10:00 Finally immigration is addressed in a presidential debate.
9:58 Romney's response here is really solid. Just encapsulated his whole campaign platform.
9:53 Obama has done a good job tonight selling his record.
9:52 Speaks for itself.
9:50 This question on Bush is somehow a gimme for both candidates. Against Bush anyone looks good, I guess.
9:43 Obama may be losing, but at least he's not looking like this:
9:38 Romney's whole last argument was disingenuous. Cutting these deductions will do nothing to balance the budget, especially if he cuts taxes across the board.
9:35 Obama's turning the issue around to the deficit. Seems like a smart move. Romney has yet to explain how he'll cut the deficit under his plan to cut tax rates. Cutting deductions for the wealthy isn't enough to make up for a new tax cut.
9:29 Obama is sounding stronger on taxes, but his tone is still a little sharp. He's not doing a great job connecting with the audience.
9:22 Another good point on energy. It's pretty misleading to blame the president for rising oil prices, especially when US oil production is up. High gas prices are the result of increasing global demand.
9:20 Things are getting pretty heated. Romney is seriously aggressive, bordering on the inappropriate I'd say but Obama isn't firing back.
9:18 This is a good point from David Frum. If you're an environmentalist, you want oil prices to keep going up. But you can't take that stance and win the presidency.
9:16 Romney gets specific by pointing out the Obama administration's prosecution of people who have drilled in environmentally sensitive areas. But he's not talking numbers. Can't dispute that US oil and gas production is up under Obama.
9:14 Obama is sounding a lot stronger on energy. His record is pretty solid on this front.
9:12 Romney is looking stronger than Obama yet again. More poised and alert. Obama is not seeming like his usual likable self.
9:09 Candy Crowley asks a follow-up question. Pretty sure she wasn't supposed to do that during this town hall debate.
9:07 Obama gets right to talking points and cites his record of saving manufacturing jobs...seems a little irrelevant to a college student. Isn't addressing the student's question as directly as Romney did, even if he's going into a little more detail on policy.
9:05 College student asks a question about his fear of not finding a job after graduating. Romney is making intense eye contact. He's offering a lot of platitudes and not a lot of specific policy proposals.
8:58 This is pretty funny.
8:55: My prediction for tonight: tie. Romney will be strong as he was in the first debate, but he'll lose points on likability with the audience. Obama will be more likable, and likely perform better than in Denver, but I doubt he'll be the obvious victor.
UPDATE 8:51 PM: Debate starts in 9 minutes. Stay posted for new updates. Below are a couple charts from FiveThirtyEight blog. Always good to see where things stand before the debate begins.
Romney has seriously closed the gap since the first debate, but Obama has held on to a solid lead, according to Nate Silver's analysis.