April 21, 2014

Gearing up for 2nd presidential debate

Will the presidential candidates opt for style or substance?

One thing’s for sure, tonight’s town-hall style format between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney will look much different than their first meeting. Also, University of Wisconsin-Madison Political Scientist Barry Burden says the first debate changed the dynamic of the campaign, with Romney coming out ahead.

“So, there’s now some pressure on the president to come back in a more aggressive way in the second debate.”

Conventional wisdom, at least among academic researchers, is that debates don’t typically change public opinion much, that is, until now. “You know, all bets are off. It looks like these debates are having an effect, for whatever reason.”

Burden says the narrative had previously been driven by groups supporting the opposition, but the debate gives candidates an opportunity to state their case.

The first debate had the two candidates standing behind their lecterns talking about facts and figures and discussing policies. Tonight’s 90-minute discussion involves questions from real people, directly addressing the candidates and communicating on a more personal level.

“It’s gonna reveal more of the human side of the candidates and their ability to empathize with the situation that voters find themselves in and talk about how their actions in office will deal with the concerns that voters have.”

Obama and Romney have been practicing for tonight’s event, with coaching from advisers. Burden expects viewership to be high and for the candidates to take the debate very seriously. He says it’s a balancing act between being confident enough without being perceived as overly aggressive or annoying.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 2:00