NEW YORK - If it's Tuesday, it must be debate day. And talk about a change of fortunes.
Back on October 3 in Denver the question was this: Can Mitt Romney do well enough in the first debate to halt a surging President Obama?
Even Romney backers acknowledged that if the former Massachusetts Governor had not fared well in Denver it was going to be a long, cold and frustrating five weeks.
Now it is Obama who has to find a way to stop the forward momentum that Romney has built since the Denver debate - momentum that is showing no signs of abating.
New polling in Pennsylvania shows President Obama's double digit lead in the Keystone state is now down to four points. And Republicans are telling us that they are seeing this tightening in plenty of other states (like Pennsylvania) where Romney isn't even spending a dime.
So, what's at stake tonight at Hofstra University, the site of the second of three presidential debates? Here's The Note's rundown from ABC News Political Director Amy Walter:
OBAMA VS. ROMNEY: THE REMATCH. ABC's Jake Tapper reported for "Good Morning America" from Hempstead, NY that tonight brings the one and only town hall debate where the candidates will be taking questions from the audience made up of all undecided voters. It's a format that can and has brought curveballs. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/T7Zi2B
BATTLEGROUND BRAWL: HOW HAS THE ELECTORAL MAP CHANGED SINCE DENVER? In the latest episode of the ABC/Yahoo! Power Players series "Top Line" ABC's Amy Walter and Rick Klein revisit the electoral college map to look at how the landscape has changed for Mitt Romney since the first presidential debate. Romney's numbers are up not only nationally, but also in those critical battleground states: Florida, Colorado, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Virginia. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/R2qf5c
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR TONIGHT. Tonight's debate could provide an opportunity for each candidate to gain the edge he desires, ABC's Devin Dwyer and Mary Bruce note. Here are five things to watch tonight that could shape voters' perceptions before the final debate next Monday: A more "aggressive" Obama; Romney striving for empathy; body language; meddling from the moderator; and, of course, wild card questions. READ MORE: http://abcn.ws/RABbrw
The Note's virtual political roundtable:
ABC POLITICAL ANALYST MATTHEW DOWD: President Obama can't show up like Alex Rodriguez and miss the ball time after time. He's got to bring the pitches, he's got to be assertive because if he's not, he and Michelle maybe better get the packing tape and call the movers because if he doesn't bring his A game - he may not be in the White House. But he can't be too aggressive either. Watch Dowd's full analysis from "Good Morning America": http://abcn.ws/SZ2NlQ
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last night took the hit for Benghazi last night by claiming responsibility for herself. That gives President Obama some extra flexibility on the biggest foreign-policy story of the moment, before he's likely to get his first questions on the subject at a debate. But he's got to be careful how he uses this favor: Clinton stands as more popular than Obama himself, and the image of the president blaming his outgoing secretary of state may not be what Obama wants at this stage of the campaign. With the battle over women voters raging, Obama can't risk reviving old rivalries, real or imagined.
TUNE IN TODAY: ABC NEWS' COVERAGE OF THE DEBATE. ABC News will provide comprehensive coverage of tonight's presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley.
ON TV: Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos will anchor special coverage of the debate from ABC News Election Headquarters in New York from 9:00-11:00 p.m., ET tonight. Sawyer and Stephanopoulos will be joined by members of ABC's political team including: Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper; ABC "World News" weekend anchor David Muir, who covers the Romney campaign; Senior Political Correspondent Jonathan Karl reporting live from ABC's Fact or Fiction Desk; and ABC News political analysts.
ONLINE: ABC News Digital will provide live debate coverage anchored by ABC News Political Director Amy Walter and "Good Morning America" Weekend Anchor Dan Harris from 8:00-11:30 p.m., ET. The coverage will be live-streamed across several platforms including ABCNews.com, Yahoo!, Yahoo! News, GoodMorningAmerica.com, ABC News' iPad & iPhone apps, as well as on ABC News affiliate websites. ABC News Digital coverage will also serve as the official provider of the debates on YouTube's Elections Hub. ABC News Digital will have a one-hour pre-show at 8:00 p.m., ET and a one hour post-show each night of the debates, as well as a 30-minute noon show.
ON THE RADIO: ABC News Radio will provide live coverage of tonight's debate from 9:00-11:00 p.m., ET including 30 minutes of post-debate analysis. ABC News Radio Correspondent Aaron Katersky will anchor ABC News Radio's coverage from each debate site. He will be joined by ABC News Radio White House Correspondent Ann Compton, ABC News Radio correspondents Vic Ratner, Steven Portnoy and Alex Stone. In addition, Katersky will anchor a one-hour preview before the debate from 8:00-9:00 p.m., ET.
BATTLE OF THE SPIN ROOM SURROGATES: Once the main event is over, representatives from both campaigns will go at it in the spin room at Hofstra following the debate. ABC's Devin Dwyer and Emily Friedman name names:
FROM TEAM OBAMA:
David Axelrod, Obama for America Senior Strategist
Rep. Karen Bass (D, CA-33)
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D, CA-31)
Stephanie Cutter, Obama for America Deputy Campaign Manager
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), OFA national campaign co-chair
Patrick Gaspard, Executive Director of the DNC
Robert Gibbs, Obama for America Senior Advisor
Senator John Kerry (D-MA)
Jim Messina, Obama for America Campaign Manager
Governor Martin O'Malley (D-MD), Chair of the Democratic Governors Association
Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA), OFA national campaign co-chair
David Plouffe, 2008 Obama for America Campaign Manager
Jen Psaki, Obama for America Traveling Press Secretary
Mayor Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta and OFA national campaign co-chair
Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Action Fund*
Cecilia Rouse, Princeton University, Economist
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Governor Ted Strickland, former Ohio governor and OFA national campaign co-chair
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D, MD-8)
Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D, NY-12)
Mayor Antonio Villairagosa, Mayor of Los Angeles and OFA national campaign co-chair
DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D, FL-20
FROM TEAM ROMNEY:
Former US Treasurer & RFP Adviser Bay Buchanan
VA State Delegate and RFP Adviser Barbara Comstock
Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Former US Sec of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez
Former Lt. Governor Kerry Healey
Economic Adviser Glenn Hubbard
Governor Bobby Jindal
Senator Ron Johnson
Governor Bob McDonnell
U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Peter King
Former US Congressman Rick Lazio
Former New York Governor George Pataki
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus
Former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu
Senator Rob Portman
Former US Ambassador Venezuela Otto Reich
Former Pennsylvania Governor and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge
Former Senator Jim Talent
Former Ambassador & Romney Campaign Foreign Policy Adviser Richard Williamson
Romney Campaign Policy Director Lanhee Chen
Romney Campaign Senior Adviser Eric Fehrnstrom
Romney Campaign Senior Adviser Peter Flaherty
Romney Campaign Senior Adviser Ed Gillespie
Romney Campaign Senior Adviser and Counsel BenGinsberg
Romney Campaign Spokesman Rick Gorka
Romney Campaign Spokesperson Amanda Henneberg
Romney Campaign Senior Adviser Ron Kaufman
Romney Campaign Senior Adviser Kevin Madden
Romney Campaign Spokesperson Sarah Pompei
Romney Campaign Senior Adviser Russ Schriefer
Romney Campaign Senior Adviser Dan Senor
Republican National Committee Communications Director Sean Spicer
Romney Campaign Senior Adviser Stuart Stevens
Romney Campaign National Press Secretary Andrea Saul
Romney Campaign Spokesperson Tara Wall
Romney Campaign Senior Adviser Bob White
Romney Campaign RFP Spokesperson Ryan Williams
with Elizabeth Hartfield ( @LizHartfield)
HILARY CLINTON TAKES RESPONSIBILITY FOR SECURITY LAPSES. ABC's Reena Ninan reports, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accepted blame for the security lapses before the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. "I take responsibility," Clinton told CNN Monday in Lima, Peru. She added, "The president and the vice president wouldn't be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals." Clinton also said that the U.S. has been aware that militants were regrouping in Libya and that there would be an effort to reestablish bases. "We also knew aside from individuals and groups there were so many militias that have formed and so many weapons," Clinton told ABC News. "It was something we were focused on." Ninan notes that Secretary of Clinton told the President of Peru that she's eager to get back quickly because she wants to watch tonight's debate. http://abcn.ws/QOaaxZ
ABC NEWS EXCLUSIVE: WASHINGTON'S PORKIEST PROJECTS. ABC's Jon Karl reports on Sen. Tom Coburn's annual "Waste Book." Every year since 2010, the Oklahoma Republican has issued his blistering report highlighting the most 100 most egregious abuses of taxpayer dollars. This year, Coburn and his research team highlighted examples totaling $17.9 billion and ABC News got an exclusive first look. For example, chances are when you think "nonprofit," you don't think of the National Football League, the National Hockey League, or the Professional Golfers' Association. However, each of these sport's associations avoids paying tens of millions of dollars each year in taxes because they classify themselves as such. The NFL loophole is Exhibit A in Coburn's new report on government waste, which points out that the NFL alone pulled in more than $9 billion last year and paid Commissioner Roger Goodell more than $11 million. http://abcn.ws/V2XnxN
ROMNEY RAISES $170.4 MILLION IN SEPTEMBER, BUT IS OUTPACED BY OBAMA. ABC's Emily Friedman reports: Mitt Romney's campaign announced yesterday that it raised more than $170.4 million in September, marking the best fundraising month to date for the Republican nominee. But Romney's fundraising loot still came in under that of President Obama and the Democrats, who reported raising $181 million in September, the most an incumbent president has ever raised in a single month before his re-election. The Obama campaign has not released how much they have in cash on hand. Romney, along with the Republican National Committee and the Romney Victory Fund, reports having $191 million in cash on hand. http://abcn.ws/V3bgvS
NOTED: ROSS PEROT ENDORSES ROMNEY. Former Presidential candidate Ross Perot endorsed Mitt Romney in an op-ed published in the Des Moines Register on Tuesday morning. "Our country faces a momentous choice. The fact is the United States is on an unsustainable course. At stake is nothing less than our position in the world, our standard of living at home and our constitutional freedoms" Perot wrote. "That is why I am endorsing Mitt Romney for president. We can't afford four more years in which debt mushrooms out of control, our government grows and our military is weakened." http://dmreg.co/WtlJyz
OBAMA'S CAST BALLOTS EARLY- A PRESIDENTIAL FIRST. President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will both cast their ballots for the 2012 election early, the couple announced Monday on Twitter. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports, the announcement means Mr. Obama will become the first presidential candidate to not vote in-person on Election Day, according to his campaign. Thirty-two percent of voters say they'll cast ballots early, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. Among those who plan to vote early, Obama holds the advantage, 54-43 percent, underscoring the particular importance of early turnout to his campaign. http://abcn.ws/XeyZ9M
WHO GETS TO GRILL THE CANDIDATES AT THE TOWN HALL DEBATE? The man responsible for selecting the audience members who will grill President Obama and Mitt Romney at Tuesday's town hall debate has no idea what kind of questions the undecided voters will put to the candidates, and that's just the way he likes it reports ABC's Russell Goldman. "The fun part is, we don't ask anything about the questions. We have no idea what they're going to come up with," said Frank Newport, the editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll, whose organization is responsible for picking the random sample of uncommitted voters who get to ask the next president whatever is on their minds. After weeks of carefully vetting voters who live near Hofstra University, in Long Island, N.Y., to be included in the audience, what ultimately gets asked and by whom is out off Newport's hands. http://abcn.ws/TtbjtP
ARIZONA SENATE RACE: IT'S GETTING PERSONAL. Arizona's Senate race has swiftly become one of the most intense and personal in the country, thanks to two new TV ads released last week by Republican Rep. Jeff Flake and Democrat Richard Carmona, who served as Surgeon General during the George W. Bush administration reports ABC's Chris Good. Rep. Flake's campaign struck first. Cristina Beato, a senior Health and Human Services official during the Bush years, appeared in a TV ad in which she accused Carmona of knocking loudly on her door late at night when she was his boss. Carmona has responded with a TV ad featuring another of his former bosses. In it, former SWAT commander Kathleen Brennan, under whom Carmona served in Pima County, Ariz. for years, vouches for Carmona's treatment of women and attacks Flake. http://abcn.ws/XhCbBt
CHARITY PRESIDENT UNHAPPY ABOUT PAUL RYAN SOUP KITCHEN 'PHOTO OP.' The Washington Post's Felicia Sonmez reports: "The head of a northeast Ohio charity says that the Romney campaign last week 'ramrodded their way' into the group's Youngstown soup kitchen so that GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan could get his picture taken washing dishes in the dining hall. Brian J. Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, said that he was not contacted by the Romney campaign ahead of the Saturday morning visit by Ryan, who stopped by the soup kitchen after a town hall at Youngstown State University." http://wapo.st/Tsov2b
ROMNEY AIDES GET A TIME-OUT AFTER MISSTEPS. The Wall Street Journal's Sara Murray reports: "Some presidential campaigns have staff shake-ups. Mitt Romney's has a penalty box. During its tough stretches, especially through September, the Republican's campaign maintained its own unique system for keeping staffers in check: They disappeared from the trail for a stretch that coincided neatly with fallout from their errors. … After a high-profile blunder on the campaign's summer foreign trip, traveling press secretary Rick Gorka was rerouted for some down time in New Jersey. Senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom adopted a lower profile in Boston after two public gaffes. Stuart Stevens, the campaign's chief strategist and road warrior, has disappeared for stints to make campaign advertisements when his leadership was in question." http://on.wsj.com/QNWxyI
GOP, DEMOCRATS SPAR ON ELIZABETH WARREN'S LAW LICENSE. The Associated Press reports: "A former Republican U.S. attorney for Massachusetts who also ran for heard of the state GOP is calling for an investigation into Democrat Elizabeth Warren's law license, echoing a charge also raised by Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown. Francis McNamara, who resigned in 1989 after federal investigators concluded he'd falsely accused former GOP Gov. William Weld of smoking marijuana, said the Massachusetts Bar of Board Overseers should investigate whether Warren "engaged in the unauthorized practice of law." McNamara argues that because Warren was never admitted to the Massachusetts bar, some of her work may have violated the state's rules of professional conduct for attorneys. Warren said she's always followed the rules." http://bo.st/TnZpS8
DEBT IMPASSE SHADOWS RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE. "President Obama and Mitt Romney will again debate their visions for the next four years on Tuesday night, and if the campaign so far is any guide, they will not acknowledge that the winner's agenda could depend on the fiscal showdown between Election Day and Inauguration Day," The New York Times Jackie Calmes reports. "Without agreement of some kind, more than $700 billion in automatic tax increases and spending cuts would occur after Dec. 31, scheduled by a mix of coincidence and bipartisan agreement. How the re-elected president navigates this 'fiscal cliff' could determine how much political clout and budget resources he will have." http://nyti.ms/V4PrMn
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX:
-FORAMERICA LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN TO FIRE HILLARY. The conservative advocacy group, ForAmerica, unveiled a new campaign today to urge President Obama to fire Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the security lapses in Libya. The group has a new petition and video they are sending to about 3.2 million ForAmerica supporters, encouraging them to share it with their friends on Facebook and to forward to others by email. "Thursday night, Vice President Biden shocked the nation when he asserted that Secretary of State Clinton, for weeks, failed to inform the White House of the serious security deficiencies in Benghazi," said ForAmerica Chairman Brent Bozell. "Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden and the White House continue to lay this mess at the feet of Hillary Clinton. She has been unable to produce any answers to the satisfaction of the families whose loved ones were killed in Benghazi, or the American people. … [It] is incumbent upon President Obama to fire Secretary Clinton." WATCH the video: http://youtu.be/gOtKRU5GNgw
-PLANNED PARENTHOOD TAKES TO THE RADIO AIRWAVES. Planned Parenthood Votes, the political arm of the abortion rights group, has launched its first radio buy of the election cycle in to key battlegrounds states today - Virginia and Ohio. The ads are part of what the group is calling its "biggest ever campaign to educate voters about Mitt Romney's dangerous and out-of-touch agenda for women. The radio ad 'Completely Wrong' highlights the stark difference between President Obama and Mitt Romney on issues of importance to women, saying 'Mitt Romney will put critical health care for women and families at risk and will let politicians interfere in your most private medical decisions. President Obama trusts women and knows the health care challenges families face….'" LISTEN: http://youtu.be/Zu4EDAzRwQs
@matthewjdowd : Again my advice on poll watching is pay attention to averages, and not to one particular poll. Average is best indicator of the race.
@realDonaldTrump : Based on very popular demand, I will be live tweeting tomorrow night during the Presidential debate.
with ABC's Josh Haskell ( @HaskellBuzz)
-President Obama will travel to Hempstead, New York where he'll participate in the second Presidential Debate Tuesday evening.
-Mitt Romney will travel to Hempstead, New York where he'll participate in the second Presidential Debate Tuesday evening.
-Vice President Biden has no campaign events scheduled. Biden will attend the funeral of former U.S. Senator Arlen Specter in Penn Valley, PA.
-Paul Ryan is on the trail in Virginia holding two rallies in Lynchburg and Fredericksburg.
-First Lady Michelle Obama will address supporters at an afternoon campaign event in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In the evening, the First Lady will attend the Presidential Debate in New York.
Check out The Note's Futures Calendar : http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV
Tune in to ABCNews.com on Thursday for livestreaming coverage of the second 2012 Presidential Town Hall Debate in Hempstead, N.Y. Coverage kicks off with ABC News' live preview show at noon, and full debate coverage begins at 8 p.m.