Obama under pressure to perform in debate rematch
President Barack Obama's camp is promising that the American public will see a more energised and visionary incumbent tonight as Mr Obama tries to keep Republican challenger Mitt Romney at bay.
Mr Romney's campaign got a much-needed shot in the arm two weeks ago when the Republican came out swinging in the first match-up between the two candidates, while Mr Obama appeared passive and tongue-tied at times.
The strong debate performance helped Mr Romney reverse his slide in the polls, and recent surveys put the race for the White House at a virtual dead heat just three weeks ahead of the November 6th election.
In a Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll today, Mr Obama gained ground on Mr Romney for the third straight day, leading 46 per cent to 43 per cent.
"I think you'll see somebody who will be strong, who will be passionate, who will be energetic, who will talk about ... not just the last four years but what the agenda is for the future and how we continue to move ... our economy forward," Mr Obama's senior campaign adviser Robert Gibbs said on MSNBC.
The 90-minute debate at Hofstra University in New York begins at 9pm (2am Irish time).
Both men will have to deal with the more intimate town hall format of today's debate, which often inhibits political attacks as the candidates focus on connecting with the voters asking the questions.
It also offers an element of uncertainty as the candidates cannot predict what the audience of undecided voters might ask, which could range from tax policy to job creation to foreign policy.
"Almost all of the pressure will be on Obama this time, given how poorly he performed in the first debate and how much that seemed to help Romney and change the race," said political scientist Andrew Taylor of North Carolina State University.
The town hall format lets the candidates "talk directly to people and look them in the eye and try to connect, which has not been a strength for either of them," Mr Taylor said. "But you can still make strong points with a velvet glove."
During the first debate, Mr Obama was widely criticised for not challenging Mr Romney on exactly how he plans to give Americans a big tax cut without adding to the deficit, and for not calling attention to the more moderate views Mr Romney appeared to present during the match-up.
A Gallup/USA Today poll published today showed the two had similar favorable ratings from registered voters. But the survey showed Mr Romney ahead of Mr Obama by four percentage points among likely voters in the 12 battleground states.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll that gave Mr Obama an edge showed the number of undecided voters had increased, indicating a drop of support for Mr Romney among the coveted voting bloc.