PHOENIX, October 15, 2012 - On Tuesday, President Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney will again face off in the second presidential debate of the 2012 campaign season.
This debate will differ from the first. Rather than standing behind podiums to take questions from a moderator, the “town-hall” format of this debate will have the candidates taking questions submitted by voters, much as we saw in 2008 when Senator John McCain debated then-Senator Barack Obama.
This Gallup Organization will select undecided voters to ask the candidates questions on foreign and domestic policy issues. Each will have two minutes to respond, and the moderator, Candy Crowley, will have a minute to facilitate a discussion between the two candidates.
Moderator Candy Crowley, the first female moderator of a presidential debate in over two decades, says that the candidates wouldn’t be able to “dodge” the issues the way they do when reporters ask questions. (article continues below debate window)
Join Communities writers for an online live debate during the Tuesday night Presidential Town Hall debate - while we watch, we want your thoughts and opinions as to the questions, responses and outcome.
As a consequence of his abysmal performance in the first debate, President Obama has been spending the past few days prepping intensively for this debate. It will be his task to convince voters that his earlier performance was an anomaly and that he’s fully engaged in and committed to this race.
Obama tried to quell criticism of his first debate performance, telling a radio host that he is “just too polite,” and that the second debate, “will see a little more activity” from the president. His campaign promises that he will return with a sharper, more aggressive debate style on Tuesday and that he will defeat Romney.
Meanwhile, the Romney campaign says that no matter how much debate prep Obama crams in, it won’t change the president’s record or policies.
“He can change his tactics. He can’t change his record. And he can’t change his policies. And that’s what this election is about,” Romney campaign advisor Ed Gillespie said.
Looking at past town-hall-style debates, a deft and approachable performance here could prove to be a great benefit to a candidate who is seen as “out of touch” with the American voters.
In 1992, President Bill Clinton successfully connected with a debate audience, convincing them that he knew of the economic mess that Americans were facing under the Bush administration.
Clinton went straight to members of the audience, looked them in the eye and asked them point blank, “Tell me how it’s affected you again? You know people who’ve lost their jobs and lost their homes?”
Clinton went on, “Well I tell you how it’s affected me. I’ve seen people in my state, middle class people, their taxes have gone up in Washington and their services have gone down while the wealthy have gotten tax cuts. I have seen what’s happened in these last four years when, in my state, when people lose their jobs, there’s a good chance I’ll know them by their names.”
This was seen as a powerful moment for the Clinton campaign, as the former president addressed the audience with a sympathetic and supportive tone.
Clinton defeated President George H. W. Bush, convincing the voters that his economic policies would get the country back on the right track. This same message could be potent in this year’s election.
In 2008, a strong point made by Obama during his town-hall debate with John McCain was that the American dream had been lost and needed to be restored.
“And the question in this election is: Are we going to pass on that same American dream to the next generation? Over the last eight years, we’ve seen that dream diminish,” Obama told an audience of undecided voters. “We need fundamental change. That’s what’s at stake in this election. That’s the reason I decided to run for president, and I’m hopeful that all of you are prepared to continue this extraordinary journey that we call America.”
Obama’s 2008 message of hope and change resonated with voters, but this time around, many question whether he has delivered on the “fundamental change” that he promised four years ago.
Tuesday’s debate should generate much more interest due to the extraordinary attention given the first debate, as well as its lopsided results.
Unlike the first debate, don’t expect this one to be another Romney blowout, but also don’t underestimate the former governor.
Be sure to watch the debate from Hofstra University in Long Island, New York and join in the Communities chat, Tuesday night, right here starting at 8:45 pm.
You will be glad that you did.
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