Many academics think debates really don't matter.
However they do - just ask Gordon Brown and now Barack Obama.
In the age of electronic politics most voters do not have the opportunity to meet and size up their candidates in person unless of course they live in Iowa or New Hampshire.
Live TV Debates allow the voters to see the two candidates interact with each other and the moderator as they vie for the voters attention, affection and trust.
The fact that Americans get to know their president as a TV personality in their living rooms and in live TV debates is part of the audition for the job.
In this setting what you say, unless it is a huge gaffe, is often less important than how you say it.
Mitt Romney was clearly the victor in the first debate doing much better than expected and by comparison and expectation Barack Obama's performance was lacking.
At the first debate Obama seemed flat-footed and worn down by the burdens of the job while his challenger seemed up beat and 'ready to rumble'.
Obama was back on his heels and off balance as he faced the re-tooled, often somewhat charming Romney in what should have been at least a TKO for World Champ Barack Obama!
Had Obama and his team watched his challenger earlier in the week, at the Clinton Global Initiate, Romney's chameleon-like transformation would have been no surprise.
Romney did a '360' back to his former Massachusetts Governor self right before 60 million Americans both in the US and abroad - shifting all of his policies toward the center - to appeal to independent voter.
"Mr Bain Capital" as if by magic became "Mitt - Man of the People" and "Hero of the Middle Class".
Everyone should have seen this one coming.
Romney came out swinging, hitting his opponent hard with stinging combinations while a stunned Obama barely raised a glove.
Obama did not take any opportunity to call Romney to task for muddying the waters on his positions and for becoming perhaps the biggest flip flopper of modern times.
Therefore Obama lost both the debate and some of his hard-earned momentum.
This was a golden opportunity for Romney and a life line for his struggling campaign.
Romney seized the moment and dominated both Obama and the moderator Jim Lehrer.
Romney accomplished his mission to change the dynamic of the race.
With momentum on his side, he caused some undecided voters to take another look.
Post debate polls show Romney may have put Ohio back into play and narrowed the president's lead in other toss up states.
With his campaign re-energized, the pressure is now on Romney to keep the momentum going in the second debate.
The skates are also now much higher for the president to deliver a dazzling performance and not just a draw.
The president cannot afford another lack luster performance. It's risk taking time.
The format for the second debate is a town hall meeting with audience participation.
This is not exactly the perfect environment for Obama to regain his ground by coming on strong as the aggressor.
This setting does not lend itself to a confrontational re-match without the risk of alienating the audience.
To be a champion in the town hall ring you need to be a real people person - a charmer to win over the crowd.
Although this sort of environment was tailor made for a Bill Clinton, it will probably pose a challenge to both candidates for different reasons - neither one of these two debaters has those kinds people skills.
Romney is by nature a little wooden and Obama is a bit too cerebral.
The topic of this debate which includes foreign policy along with domestic issues could also pose some problems for Governor Romney who has had some difficulty keeping his footing in that arena of foreign affairs.
Romney needs to show he can pass the Commander-in-Chief test this time without making any big gaffes.
However, as before the president should not underestimate him.
The challenger will show up ready to go on the offensive by hitting Obama's strengths.
Romney has now shown he can learn and take direction well, so the president should be prepared to give a strong defense of his record and respond to issues like the US Embassy attack in Libya and the Iranian and Syrian challenges - since these topics will clearly be on
front and center.
Obama needs to make the case why his judgment and style of leadership will make the world a safer place and that choosing Romney is a very big risk.
If the president fails to do this, it may be his last chance to regain the momentum he has lost.
Obama's challenge is perhaps more internal that external.
Perhaps he needs to ask himself if he is "Fired Up and Ready To Go!!!
However, before we see "The Clash of the Titans" on Oct 16 tune in to the one and only Vice Presidential Debate on Thursday from Center College, Danville Kentucky.
The "Veep Debate" is between two rather interesting characters - Vice President Joe "This is a big *#* Deal" Biden and Wisconsin Representative Paul "Deficit Hawk" Ryan.
These two guys are from completely different generations and ideological bents - Biden is the "Old School" Progressive while Ryan is the "Young Gun" Conservative.
This is not the Main Event however, as sheer entertainment it could be a lot more fulfilling.
Plus any major policy or behavioral gaffe could definitely resonate up-ticket and cause damaging affects on Obama or Romney.
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