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News Analysis: Tuesday's presidential debate all about style, giving Obama advantage

English.news.cn   2012-10-16 13:24:09            
 • Both candidates' ability to connect with viewers will be most important aspect of Tuesday debate.
 • Experts: Obama apparently has always been able to connect better with audience than Romney.
 • At any rate, experts expect the debate to be a barn burner, with each candidate fired up.


WASHINGTON, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- Both U.S. presidential candidates' ability to connect with viewers will be the most important aspect of Tuesday night's presidential debate, which could give President Barack Obama an advantage over his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, experts said.

Indeed, the debate's town-hall forum is all about being folksy and portraying oneself as attuned to the needs of the average Americans, rather than paying attention to the finer points of policy.

As such, Obama has a natural advantage, as he apparently has always been able to connect better with his audience than Romney, who has at times come off as stiff and awkward in public, experts said.

"It's a real dog and pony show," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "Town hall debates tend to favor style over substance."

Still, Obama will have to come out swinging Tuesday night after his lackluster performance in the first presidential debate earlier this month, which caused him to slip in the national polls as Romney raced ahead.

On Monday, polls were dead even, with Romney ahead by a razor-thin 0.1 percent, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls, although Obama still is expected to take more electoral votes than the challenger.

But Romney cannot simply sit back now, and he must continue to push ahead if he wants to win. True, he showed in the first debate that a strong performance can boost a candidate's standing in the polls, and he was also able to persuade many viewers that he is not the heartless capitalist that Obama's attack ads have depicted him as being, the experts said.

But it remains to be seen whether Romney has gotten over his public awkwardness, as Tuesday's discussion will be much less about policy and mostly about each candidate presenting himself as someone who can relate to average voters. That means that Romney must avoid getting bogged down in tedious policy minutia, as he is known to do, noted O'Connell.

Such a discussion is likely to cause viewers' eyes to glaze over, and viewers do not want to see a boring candidate on Tuesday.


At any rate, experts expect the debate to be a barn burner, with each candidate fired up -- Romney continues to ride the wave of confidence he felt in the first debate while Obama, under enormous pressure, is eager to come back from his first loss.

Indeed, while Vice President Joe Biden performed well in last week's vice presidential face-off, Obama himself will have to do more to reverse the slip since the first debate, said Dan Mahaffee, an analyst with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress.


Moreover, the Obama camp is no longer safe in the realm of foreign policy. While the president oversaw the killing of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden and takes credit for what the administration wants to portray as a victory over al-Qaeda, Obama is facing tough questions over the recent terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack on Sept. 11 in Benghazi, Libya. The Obama administration first described the attack as a result of a retaliation by Islamic militants against a U.S.-made anti-Islamic movie, before admitting that it was in fact a planned terror attack after questions were raised by Republican lawmakers who demanded further investigation.

Seizing on the new findings, the Romney campaign has been escalating its criticism of Obama for his failure in foreign policy, an issue widely considered to be an advantage for the incumbent. The two candidates will hold the third and last debate on foreign policy on Oct. 22.

"The administration is now facing their own inconsistent narrative about the events in Libya, and while jobs and the economy are issue number one, it leaves them vulnerable, as they were previously touting their foreign policy competency," Mahaffee said.


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Editor: Liu
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