President Obama is just hours away from squaring off with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and the overarching question is whether he can make amends for his sorry, lackluster performance in Denver and undercut the surging Romney campaign.
Few doubt that we will see a far more aggressive and energized president than the one who showed up for the first debate two weeks ago. Obama has been pummeled by his critics for a lack of serious preparation for the first debate, and Vice President Joe Biden – for all his odd expressions and cackling -- showed the president how to go after an opponent in his 90-minute debate with Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan last Thursday.
Romney appears to be brimming with confidence after his widely acclaimed performance two weeks ago, and should be on his game again tonight in a scheduled 90-minute town hall style debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
It’s not a stretch to say that tonight will be a turning point in the campaign, and that with only three weeks left before Election Day, Obama can ill afford to have another bad debate night.
Cable television news shows and the Internet are awash with predictions and advice for the candidates heading into the debate, which will be moderated by CNN’s Candy Crowley. Here is what 15 policy and political experts had to say to The Fiscal Times about the critical encounter:
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, President of the American Action Forum and former CBO Director - Let the candidates talk. To date, it has been all about setting expectations for the second presidential debate. President Obama’s advisers have been out in full force raising the stakes on tonight’s town hall style debate. The president’s greatest challenge is to live up to his campaign slogan and focus the debate on the future.
I do not expect he will disappoint again. On the heels of his weak first debate, and what most considered a draw in the Vice Presidential debate, tonight is too important for the president to not show up.
President Obama will be ready to outline his vision and explain clearly, and strongly, why and how it contrasts with Gov. Romney’s principles. He will employ his rhetorical skills to paint his vision for the future of the country. And you can expect he will press Gov. Romney for details on his plans. The ads that the Obama campaign released following the first debate point to a number of what the Obama campaign described as lies. President Obama is likely to hit on these points and demand answers. He will continue the task begun by Vice President Biden last week in his debate against Congressman Ryan, but Mr. Obama will do so with much more tact.
Like the president, Romney has to provide a vision – indeed he must be convincing that he has a single, unchanging vision for the country.
Gov. Romney has high expectations to meet as well, coming off of a successful first debate performance. He has to keep the momentum going and be prepared to debate a different Obama than he met two weeks ago. His biggest challenge is to answer the questions the Obama campaign raised in their ads following the first debate. Like the president, he has to provide a vision – indeed he must be convincing that he has a single, unchanging vision for the country.
The town hall style presents an interesting dynamic, one in which President Obama will likely excel. In 2008 he proved to be very comfortable in this environment, not to mention there are far worse places for President Obama to hold a town hall than New York State. It might not match the Thrilla in Manila, but one can surely expect a much more lively discussion tonight than we had two weeks ago.