Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will square off in the second of three presidential debates on Tuesday at 9pm eastern at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. The showdown will focus on both domestic and foreign policy, and will be held in a town meeting-style format. The audience will consist of some 80 undecided registered voters from Nassau County, N.Y., selected by the Gallup Organization. Tuesday's debate will be moderated by CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, and it will mark the first time since 1992 a woman has moderated a presidential debate. PolicyMic will be live-streaming the debate with complete live coverage. The debate will also air on NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN, among other networks.
The latest Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll shows Obama with a 47% to 45% lead over Romney among likely voters. While Romney enjoyed a bump after his performance against Obama in the first debate, that has receded. However, other polls show Romney maintaining a lead. Ramussen, for example, has the former Massachusetts governor leading the president 49% to 48%, while the latest Gallup tracking poll has Romney ahead 49% to 47%. Meanwhile, an ABC News/Washington Post poll has Obama leading by three points.
In other words, it still isn't clear who's going to win.
If there is one silver lining for Obama after his abysmal first debate performance, it's that it's hard to imagine him doing any worse the second time around. While Obama will undoubtedly be more circumspect than Vice President Joe Biden was in his debate against Paul Ryan last week, the Obama campaign realizes the president needs to exhibit more passion and enthusiasm than he did in Denver.
Unfortunately, the two biggest stories about the first debate were Obama's lackluster performance, and Romney's comment about cutting funding for PBS and "Big Bird." Naturally, given our shallow media culture, the Big Bird line was immediately seized upon and emphasized to absurd levels, which goes to show the poverty of our political discourse. It demonstrated a regrettable state of affairs where the country's budget woes can only be made apprehensible to many adults by the inclusion of a famous character from a children's television show.
One thing that was conspicuously absent from the post-debate discussion was any conversation involving substantive policy issues. Sure, there was talk about Romney's plan to lower corporate taxes, and Obama's entreaties that the rich pay their fair share, but few if any commentators bothered to ask how Romney's tax cuts would be paid for, or what the implications of Obama's plan to let the Bush tax cuts expire would be. For many Americans, the answers to those questions might as well be found on some distant planet in the Andromeda Galaxy — far beyond their reach — thanks in no small part to a media that is more concerned about style than actual content.