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.

Sweet got a look at the 31-page "memorandum of understanding" which set rules for the debate: McCain and Obama can stand but they cannot roam past a marked area and they cannot ask each other direction questions; audience members cannot switch questions; and there will be no camera shots of the questioners' reacting to the answers.

ABC News' Senior Political Reporter Rick Klein live blogs the debate action from Nashville: HERE

Belmont University is the site of tonight's debate – the first for the school and the first debate ever held in Tennessee. Belmont's soul is in its music. A private Christian school, smack-dab in the heart of Music City USA, Belmont has pumped out country music stars Brad Paisley, Trisha Yearwood, Lee Ann Womack, Josh Turner, Julie Roberts and Cowboy Crush.

VP Debate Watches
Joe Biden will watch the debate from his home in Wilmington. Sarah Palin is in Greenville, NC

On the campaign front. . .

-- 1:35 pm ET: Holds rally in Bethlehem, PA.
-- 5:15 pm ET: Holds rally in Strongsville, OH.

-- 1:35 pm ET: Holds rally in Bethlehem, PA.
-- 5:15 pm ET: Holds rally in Strongsville, OH.

-- 1:15 pm ET: Holds Rally in Indianapolis, IN.

-- 10:30 am ET: Holds community gathering in Tampa, FL.
-- 5:30 am ET: Holds community gathering in Fort Myers, FL.

-- 11:30 am ET: Holds Rally in Keene, NH.

At the White House. . .

-- 10:50 am ET: Meets with the Prime Minister of Grenada
-- 2:25 pm ET: Signs H.R. 7081, the United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Nonproliferation Enhancement Act


ABC News' Russell Goldman: Can McCain Pull Off October Surprise? LINK

ABC News' Sam Donaldson: Commentary: Sam Donaldson Says 'John McCain Is in Trouble' LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Doodles of Dreams LINK

ABC News' Matt Jaffe: Biden Attends Mother-In-Law's Funeral LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller: Axelrod on Ayers, Keating, and John McCain: 'The Bigger the Challenges We Face, the Smaller Their Campaign Gets' LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Barney Frank Says Race a Factor in Subprime Blame Game LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Anti-Abortion Catholics for Obama? LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: The Tone Being Created LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: New McCain TV Ad Calls Obama a Hypocritical Liar LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: New Obama TV Ad Hits McCain for Trying to Change the Subject LINK

ABC News' Jan Crawford Greenburg: Coming to America LINK

ABC News' Clay Carey: Candidates Reach for Tennessee's Evangelical Voters LINK


Presidential Debate, Round Two
What do the candidates need to do to be successful tonight? LINK

AIG Execs Testify on Capitol Hill
House committee continues investigation of Wall Street and its CEOs. LINK

Celebs Shout to Get Out the Vote
New "you vote" video features Blake Lively, Anne Hathaway and Samuel L. Jackson. LINK

Sam: Race is Obama's to Lose
ABC's Sam Donaldson predicts it'll be difficult for McCain to turn race around. LINK

Sheryl Crow Rips 'Cutesy' Palin
The singer says John McCain isn't putting America first with his VP pick. LINK

Will Palin Get Payback Against Fey?
Rumors swirl that the Alaska governor will spoof Tina Fey in an "SNL" episode. LINK

Ohio's Battleground Issues
Loss of many manufacturing jobs has this swing state focusing on the economy. LINK

Dayton's Innovative History
The Ohio city boasts the Wright Brothers, auto-ignition starter and Freon. LINK

George on the Competitive States
McCain may switch focus as Obama leads in several battleground states. LINK

Presidential Plans for the Economy
A look at the differences between the candidates economic plans. LINK

The Bottom Line on Economic Woes
George Stephanopoulos discusses how the economy will affect the candidates. LINK

James Carville's Conclusions
A look at what the candidates need to do in the last weeks of the campaign. LINK

Inside the Candidates' Lives
A look at the presidential hopefuls' private lives. LINK