McCain v. Obama, Round 2

Second Presidential Debate
Oct. 7, 2008, 9:00 pm ET
Belmont University, Nashville, TN

Tonight John McCain and Barack Obama come together for that town hall meeting that McCain has been anxiously waiting for since the general election began way back in June.

As soon as Obama wrapped up the Democratic nomination, McCain called on his opponent to join him for 10 town hall meetings around the country, a plan that never got past the discussion stages.

McCain loves himself a town hall meeting. The campaign event may have been the key for his stunning win in the New Hampshire primary last January. While his Republican opponents were battling it out in Iowa, McCain methodically traveled around the Granite State holding small town halls, meeting voters and giving them the Straight Talk that they loved so much in 2000.

Obama is no slouch in a town hall but it is not a format he's most comfortable in, which makes tonight an opportunity for McCain to pull out a convincing win and maybe get himself back on track after days and days of declining national and state poll numbers. McCain's town hall experience may be his Achilles Heel, as expectations are higher for him than Obama, and he will have to really distinguish himself to earn that W tonight.

With so much on the line, McCain may attempt a tricky two-step: go on the attack and keep up the barrage his campaign has unleashed on Obama in the last three days, while at the same time try to appeal to (and perhaps more importantly, not alienate) independent and undecided voters.

It's one thing to seem like you are seen as giving a prickly response to Jim Lehrer or Tom Brokaw. It's quite another if you are answering Susie Smith, the moveable voter who represents so many like her in battleground states.

For Obama, he has to be comfortable in the more conversational format and keep the focus on the economy, the number one issue on voters' minds and the driving force behind his leads in national and state polls, and highlight the policy differences between him and McCain.

The two candidates meet again with the backdrop of a financial crisis. The stock market plunged again today, despite the best efforts of the Federal Reserve to provide support for financial markets by offering up money to businesses in need of short term lending, ABC News' Charlie Herman reports. The Dow lost nearly 500 points, the eighth worst point drop in history.

Tonight's Debate Format:

o The debate is 90 minutes and McCain and Obama have two minutes to answer each question, with an additional one minute of discussion allowed if necessary.
o Obama won a coin toss and will get the first question.
o The 80 moveable voters on stage at the debate hail from the Nashville, TN area and were selected and pre-screened by the Gallup Organization.
o Brokaw will mix in pre-selected questions from moveable voters on the Internet
o The audience is not allowed to ask follow-up questions.
o The debate commission anticipates there will be time for about 14-16 questions.

Lynn Sweet reports in the Chicago Sun Times that a deal made between the two campaigns will limit the interaction Obama and McCain will have with the moveable voters in the pool of questioners.

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