Sixty-seven million people.
That’s how many people tuned in to watch the first debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney — or what the Obama campaign might as well call the “Debacle in Denver.”
The president went into that debate Oct. 5 with the chance to put Romney in his rearview window for good, holding commanding leads in most national and swing-state polls, taking in a record amount of donations in September and watching Romney on the verge of campaign self-destruction.
All the pressure was on Romney. And he came through, or more like it, Obama bombed.
Whatever the reason for the horrible debate performance, the pressure has swung completely in the other direction — and onto the sitting president’s shoulders. Can he deliver in the clutch?
Does he even want another four years?
These questions may be answered Tuesday night at New York’s Hofstra University.
Here’s Metro’s look ahead at the second of three presidential debates, with special emphasis on what us 70 million viewers can expect from Obama.
Candy won’t be so sweet as moderator
For the first time in 20 years, a woman will moderate a presidential debate, as CNN’s Candy Crowley will moderate the “town hall” format.
And she’s already making a mark on the debate, even before it starts, which is in stark contrast to PBS newsman Jim Lehrer, who took some hits for his out-of-the-way moderating in the first debate earlier this month. Crowley has reportedly indicated that she will use citizens’ questions as a way to dig into certain topics with Obama and Romney, instead of simply allowing the candidates to answer the questions directly.
On Oct. 5, she told CNN viewers that “once the table is kind of set by the town hall questioner, there is then time for me to say, ‘Hey, wait a second, what about X, Y and Z?’” according to the Washington Post.
Both campaigns are reportedly in crisis mode over her promised approach, but no one publicly talked to reporters yesterday.
Romney took first round, pressure’s on Obama
The onus to perform in this debate shifts to Obama after his poor showing against Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the first debate. Here’s some factors likely to affect his performance tonight:
Political experts said Obama needs to be more aggressive and definitive in expressing his message.
I think the number one thing he has to do is he has to define the difference between his administration and the type of administration the Romney team is talking about,” said Philadelphia political consultant Maurice Floyd, who worked on campaigns for former mayors John Street and Ed Rendell. He added that there’s a fine line for the president between being aggressive and seeming agitated.
As an African-American … you’re always faced with the ‘angry black man’ syndrome,” he said.
Experts agree that the town-hall format should favor Obama, allowing him to show off his people skills, while Romney could be forced to reveal more about his specific plans for addressing the economy than he has given to date.
“This really is Obama’s strong suit, so the format should tend to favor him slightly,” said Temple University political science professor Robin Kolodny. “[For Romney], this is going to be a little bit different for him because what he got away with in the first debate was to be effective stylistically, but on substance not answer questions in detail, and usually the town hall format doesn’t let you get away with that.”
While some experts say the debates have little effect on voters, Floyd and Kolodny said Obama needs to reassure his base with a solid performance.
“Obama could use a better performance out of here to make his base more enthusiastic,” Kolodny said.