Five things to watch for when President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney meet in their second debate:
1. A REBOUND? After taking a
drubbing in the first debate, Obama's under big pressure to step up his
game Tuesday night. He'll try to show energy and passion. Look for him
to challenge Romney's claims more often, too. Obama's comfortable taking
audience questions at campaign events and that should work in his favor
at this "town hall" style debate.
2. MAN OF THE PEOPLE? The
town hall format holds risk and opportunity for Romney. It could be a
great chance to address one of the wealthy businessman's trouble spots -
poll respondents rate him as less likable than Obama and less in tune
with regular folks. Romney could warm up his image if he connects well
with the voters on stage. What he needs to avoid: coming across as
awkward or elitist.
3. MORE CIVIL? Expect a
less confrontational tone. Although Democrats are urging Obama to go on
the offensive, he needs to balance that against the restraints of the
town hall atmosphere. The candidates will try to sound civil even while
underscoring their differences, to show respect for the folks
surrounding them onstage.
4. THE PEOPLE SPEAK: What
will the voters ask? Usually not the kinds of questions posed by
journalists moderating more traditional debates. "Real people" tend to
frame questions in broader terms and are less likely to focus on the
latest charges and countercharges. Sometimes they come up with something
out of left field; that's the moment to see how candidates think on
5. MORE THAN WORDS: They
won't be moored to a lectern or table, so this is the time to check out
each man's body language. Does a candidate seem relaxed and natural or
ill at ease? Does he show empathy for the questioner by stepping in
close and making eye contact? Is he attentive while the other guy is
talking, or does he grimace and move around distractingly or - even
worse - check his watch?
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