By John Whitesides
Obama and Romney will have to deal with the more intimate town-hall format of this debate, which often inhibits political attacks as the candidates focus on connecting with the voters asking the questions.
Obama supporters panned their candidate for being too timid in the last encounter, but Romney aide Kevin Madden said it wasn’t the Democrat’s manner that was the issue.
“I think the problem didn’t have anything to do with politeness. The problem is he doesn’t have a record to run on,” Madden told CNN.
Tuesday night carries an element of uncertainty as the candidates cannot predict the questions the audience of undecided voters might pose, which could range from tax policy to job creation to foreign policy.
“Almost all of the pressure will be on Obama this time, given how poorly he performed in the first debate and how much that seemed to help Romney and change the race,” said political scientist Andrew Taylor of North Carolina State University.
The town-hall format lets the candidates “talk directly to people and look them in the eye and try to connect, which has not been a strength for either of them,” Taylor said. “But you can still make strong points with a velvet glove.”
The Reuters/Ipsos poll that gave Obama an edge showed the number of undecided voters had increased, indicating a drop of support for Romney among the coveted voting bloc.
During the first debate, Obama was widely criticized for not challenging Romney on exactly how he plans to give Americans a big tax cut without adding to the deficit, and for not calling attention to the switch to more moderate views Romney appeared to present during the matchup.