Obama, Romney to face off in first presidential debate

Updated: 2012-10-04 03:37


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DENVER - US President Barack Obama is to face off with his Republican challenger Mitt Romney for the first time in this campaign cycle here Wednesday in the first presidential debate, as both candidates are trying to best each other five weeks before American voters cast their votes.

The two candidates are to focus their debate on economy, as half of the debate is devoted to the subject. Ben Ginsberg, a top Romney campaign aide, said Wednesday morning at a Denver briefing that the former Massachusetts governor will try to showcase contrast with Obama in their visions for America for the next four years.

Robert Gibbs, a senior adviser to the Obama campaign, also said at the same event the debate would be an opportunity for Obama to speak directly to voters without the filter of the media.

The debate is a crucial opportunity for Romney to change the dynamics of the campaign, as he is trailing the president in polls. Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said Tuesday at a Washington briefing the debates "can be a big deal" in the race, and is "clearly Romney's best opportunity in the remaining time."

Romney is heading into the debate better positioned than Obama to be perceived as performing above expectation, as a Quinnipiac poll showed voters expect the President to win the debates by 2 to 1, giving Romney "a low threshold that if he were to exceed by a lot might help him and might pick up some votes," according to Brown.

There were also some unfavorable buzz against the Obama campaign heading into the debate. Vice President Joe Biden, a top Obama surrogate, said Tuesday that the middle class has been " buried" during the past four years, a statement that Republicans immediately seized upon as an unwitting indictment of the Obama presidency.

A 2007 videotape of then-senator Obama also surfaced Tuesday night, rocketing through conservative media outlets. The video showed Obama making comments perceived as "racially charged."

Finally, a new NBC-WSJ-Marist poll showed the race is tightening in Virginia and Florida, two crucial swing states. It could signal a Romney bounce after being behind in the race for weeks.

The debate is being hosted by Denver University, and over 50 million Americans are expected to watch it live on TV Wednesday night.