Round 2: Can Obama land a punch?

Tonight's second debate offers the President a chance to hit back after his Denver disaster

The candidates for the White House hunkered down last night cramming for tonight's second of three debates in Hempstead, New York, while both campaigns continued to look for ways to bolster their numbers in Ohio, a state that both regard as critical to their chances of victory.

For President Barack Obama, who prepared at a golf resort in Virginia, tonight's debate is a crucial moment in which he will need to show that his listless performance at the first debate in Denver was just a blip. He is "calm and energised", an aide said. But because tonight's face-off will be in a town hall setting with audience members asking questions, he may not want to seem overly aggressive in ripping into his rival, Mitt Romney.

"To do well, you have to be ultra-responsive to the audience," warned Larry Sabato, director of political studies at the University of Virginia. "They almost never ask anything negative, and they almost always bristle when a candidate goes negative." Of the President, he added: "He can't conduct the second debate as a make-up session for his disastrous first debate, or he'll lose the second one, too."

Nonetheless, the Obama campaign last night again charged that Mr Romney had used the Denver stage to dissemble and distort his true positions. "No doubt, over the last couple of days while he has been practising and preparing for the debate, he's spent time memorising deceptions and ways to hide from his severely conservative record, positions, I should say," an Obama spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, told reporters.

With three weeks until voting day, there are signs of some settling in the polls after a 10-day stretch that saw Mr Romney pull into a dead heat with the President nationally as well as in some battleground states. Less encouraging for the Republican was a Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey last night showing the President holding on to a five-point lead in Ohio of 51-46 per cent.

Keeping the focus on Ohio, Paul Ryan, the Republican running mate, was headed last night to Cincinnati while the First Lady Michelle Obama visited Cleveland. Tomorrow, Mr Obama will himself be in the state while on Thursday his campaign will look for a leg-up from former president Bill Clinton and rock legend Bruce Springsteen, making a joint appearance in Parma, Ohio, south of Cleveland.

Senator Robert Portman of Ohio, who has been playing Mr Obama in debate rehearsals with Mr Romney at his campaign HQ in Boston, said there is no over-estimating his state's importance. "You can probably win the presidency without Ohio but I wouldn't want to take the risk and no Republican has," he commented.

In a continuing effort to build up support among women, the Obama campaign yesterday wheeled out a new television spot in Ohio and other battleground states featuring actresses Scarlett Johansson, Eva Longoria and Kerry Washington. The spot suggests that, in office, Mr Romney would seek to overturn the Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights, Roe vs Wade, and end funding for Planned Parenthood. "I want to talk to you about women," s Johansson says at the start of the spot, followed by Washington saying, "And about Mitt Romney." Longoria takes up the theme, "Mitt Romney is for ending funding to Planned Parenthood".

Asked what version of Mr Obama viewers should expect tonight, Ms Psaki responded: "He's going to be firm but respectful in correcting the record and the times we expect Mitt Romney will hide from and distort his own policies. He's energised and I expect he will also be making a passionate case."

Appearing on a Philadelphia radio station, Ann Romney underscored the impact her husband's unexpectedly energised performance in Denver had had on his polling. "The debate was huge and we've seen our numbers move all across the country," she suggested. She also noted the much larger crowds had started showing up at her husband's events, including in Ohio. "That's what you call momentum," she said.

At an early-morning rally in Wisconsin, Mr Ryan yesterday went on the offensive over the increasing deficit under the Obama term with the help of a digital debt clock erected for the event. "Look at how fast those numbers are running," Mr Ryan told the crowd. "We know without a shred of doubt that we have consigned the next generation to this path of debt."

Romney vs Obama: the issues that will settle the argument

Romney
ECONOMY/TAXES: Aside from attacking on the economy, he must do better in explaining a tax-cutting plan that the Democrats say doesn't add up
HEALTHCARE: He must reassure viewers that repealing Obamacare doesn't mean they will be without insurance and that Medicare for retirees is safe
LIBYA: He will surely raise the killings at the Benghazi consulate as well as Iran as examples of Obama foreign policy gone awry
DEMEANOUR: The town hall setting will give Romney the opportunity to show that he can "connect" with ordinary people
OVERALL MESSAGE: This is a chance to explain that he wants to do more than just take America back to trickle-down economics and favouring the rich

Obama
ECONOMY/TAXES: Since the last debate, the unemployment rate has at last fallen below eight per cent. Expect the President to trumpet it
HEALTHCARE: The healthcare reform has not been popular; it's time for him to remind voters why its good for them and to say why Romney would end Medicare
LIBYA: Reclaim foreign policy as his strong suit. But he must explain why his administration couldn't get its story straight about what happened in Benghazi
DEMEANOUR: He will be under pressure to be more forceful this time, calling Mr Romney out, but without turning voters off
OVERALL MESSAGE: His campaign motto is "Forward", but there is a hunger for him to explain more clearly what he would do in a second term

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor