2nd Presidential Debate 2012 Preview: The Candidates Debate

Preview coverage of the town hall presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
3:00 | 10/16/12

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Transcript for 2nd Presidential Debate 2012 Preview: The Candidates Debate
As the state university in Hempstead New York on Long Island and -- -- how to pronounce on around here in Europe I think it's Long Island Long Island there is that when he and asked Olivier now. Is a theater and around where tonight undecided voters -- question Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the second of three presidential debates. Hello everybody and Dan -- wants that ABC's political director and Long Island resident Amy Walter I made that up -- -- on. And Yahoo! News White House correspondent Olivier Knox and this. It's our pregame live stream the pressure is on the president tonight after performance. In the first debate that has widely been hand as quote on quote lackluster have been struck by how pretty much every right -- has used the word lackluster. We've -- the polls tightened up since then mr. Obama has spent three days prepping at a fancy resort in Virginia where reporters caught up with him just a short time ago -- -- -- -- -- -- Yang clearly did not want to count alleged it. He answered every other for example that when we're gonna talk about the guys in a moment meanwhile let's I was going -- -- Mitt Romney he arrived on Long Island a short while ago. After several days of debate prep in his home state of Massachusetts. Where -- perhaps one pound and a very different way the stakes are high for Romney to. He is currently in possession of the most valuable commodity -- -- politics momentum and he does not want to lose it into up and let me start preview. -- can we overstate the stakes for the president tonight are indeed can we say people as it tonight he's probably -- loses job how do we. How to we say this correctly. This is political prognosticate and of course you can never overemphasize anything -- that's the holy -- makes. No listen I think that it is amazing. How this. Discussion has flipped. Completely since the first debate where you're sitting -- -- for the moment in this hall. On the president's -- what can Mitt Romney GOP doesn't do well here this race is over. Now it's up to President Obama to show that he can I don't know that he can shift the momentum back to -- in September. But he can stop that Romney's momentum and start to finally get back on his toes as opposed to being back on his heels which -- and sent to. Olivier how does the president. How does he -- -- how does he act in a way that is aggressive that's what his advisors saying they planned for him to do to be put -- put aggressive as he did in front of an audience of regular people undecided voters -- coming up -- route. What's really good question I mean we've seen a lot of you said you mentioned lackluster -- lackluster now we're running out of synonym for feisty combative pugnacious aggressive. Determines gonna take it -- we've heard all these different variations. Obviously there's it isn't listening dynamic in the town hall to me because you answer the voter's question. And it's much more it's much more obvious when you don't answer someone's question is -- -- if you just sort of ignore a medium -- he's got to answer the question. And my guess is that he will try to draw some contrast between himself and Mitt Romney has answers you know my plan is this here's how would help you and the other guy not so much. Speaking of pugnacious this -- -- in the business people. Speaking of pugnacious -- our senior Washington editor is here hi -- as a native long islander and and I want to -- -- basketball let me say welcome to Long -- -- the -- over the -- cases this is actually -- hill for us. An -- definitely is how do we pronounce -- -- correctly I think I just had a Long Island that's that's that's that's it is not much to that lacked and I. One man's opinion I don't I'll walk us through the whole -- picture as we headed -- that's -- -- said everything is split and this is dramatic representation of how that's happened. This is this the thing that's striking to me take a look at this is from the Gallup poll just asking the question among women all of a sudden this race is not a well among women let's just to -- your sense here. President Obama had a double digit edge on this sometimes as -- eighteen points in some polls to see this collapse now. -- when I talk to thinks that this actually going to be its high among women but it's a shell of the softness -- the electorate the fact that. Women among other voters are giving Mitt Romney a second chance. That he would even challenge in this metric you know that Republicans are gonna win and you know that Democrats and are gonna win among women to have it disclosed at this point is a stunning development and it -- got to be the one thing that. Absolutely alarms Democrat so much of their convention so much of the messaging was not trying to capture the women's vote to see that women's vote flocked to the other side is a mis. Well two things first on the Obama people are questioning the accuracy of those numbers second well what do we know what that the picture in the battleground states. Post that first debate. Well we seem tightening in just about every state we've seen across the board a lot of times the earlier on we had Obama's name on top Romney's main blow it now it seems to afflict. Almost everywhere the one big exception though is the state we keep focusing on AB I've been talking about this week's Ohio Ohio Ohio the president still at about 50%. In Ohio 5051%. That means that it's not a question of Mitt Romney convincing undecided voters are on the fence voters. To -- to win Ohio he's gonna have to convince people that are currently supporting the president to flip over the other side that he has not done yet most of the Paul movement we've seen has been. People on the fence firming up and and decided to cast a lot with the Republican -- At another another big poll metric that that I was struck by this week ABC news Washington Post all the enthusiasm gap now we know that the president gardeners who huge enthusiasm. Look at those lines they just crossed Mitt Romney now has more enthusiasm on his side. And Barack Obama. On election day of 2008. The president had twice as much stronger enthusiasm for his candidacy and John McCain now of course the president won pretty handily but it wasn't an enormous electoral blowout. Here to see that -- to see Mitt Romney -- aren't enthusiasm. Obviously he he did a lot of good for himself in the last debate and you have a lot of Democrats beginning to question whether the president's -- -- -- -- -- What other -- I talk about guys before we go. Pennsylvania now that has not been on anyone's -- but what's interesting here. Is that suddenly Pennsylvania looks like it's and why we're seeing now only up four point gap in the state of Pennsylvania Mitt Romney has been there in grand total of one time. He's ran a grand total of zero ads in that state to see this now. Suddenly in play again tells you that we are seeing just -- momentum across the board for Mitt Romney but even his campaign try. -- -- -- they actually campaigned in the state of what will we be looking at right now. -- A fluid and application carpal picture without pay act -- a Long -- Particularly if it's taken years thanks let's get out the lockdown right now former Republican governor of New Hampshire John Sununu can you hear -- governor. I -- -- -- today we're doing great and we appreciate your time let me let me put this -- -- Bluntly. -- Mitt Romney has had a few moments with regular voters that were and I think it's fair described as cringe worthy for example when he described himself as. Unemployed as well to an unemployed voter. Are you sure he's up to the job tonight of interacting. -- -- regular voters undecided voters in front of tens of -- of people with the president looking on. Well -- certainly -- gonna make as big a fool of himself as the president did last time I think Mitt Romney's rated talk to voters he's been doing it. Constantly and the results of of -- -- an outpouring. Continue to grow and -- tells me that he's really touching them. So I think this is a good format for -- but it's I think it's a format that unfortunately. Doesn't allow for as much interaction from candidate to candidate so. I think it tends to drive the whole thing to a draw but it's going to be -- good night from Mitt Romney. Expectation governor from what the president is going to bring this time do you do you expect him to have a similar performance to last or two weeks ago. Well I I have to assume that. That after the disaster we had two weeks ago where where you know his own supporters felt awful about it. But worse than that you had the world watching and I think he actually embarrassed American to the rest of the world. So I hope he's done his homework so that at least in terms of the rest of the world watching it is not as embarrassing your performances last time. What you expected to come out much more aggressively against us. The governor this time -- -- it is sending your we -- worried that they -- -- with each other but do you expand our presence and tried to -- Well I hope it doesn't look like Joseph Biden who who reminded me of an army training film. Warning about the hazards of too much caffeine. But I think. I think the presence gonna try and be a little more aggressive but it is not an easy format for that to happen. The governor the -- -- from the headlines now Hillary Clinton has come out and she says she takes responsibility. For the this situation in Britain -- obviously there's still an investigation pending but did you Hillary Clinton's comments that does that latest matter to rest for you. I'm not at all I think she's just being a good soldier and I frankly think it's embarrassing for the president. Opted to have to have the secretary of state take the fall forum. I think she's she's doing what she thinks is there to support the president. But this -- guys the issue is now become an issue of character. And I think as we see the dissembling and dishonesty coming out of the campaign and and and the fact that the State Department emphasized. That they knew it was a terrorist attack almost immediately -- they were watching part of it. Live on on on some of the TV feedback. And and they were firm on the fact that they never thought it was anything but that. I think for the president to go two weeks later to the UN and say six times -- refer it to me to the video is just. An absolute dishonest act on -- on the part of the president. An issue he did not want to discuss with the press this morning an issue almost certain to come out tonight governor John Sununu. Thank you for your time. Pulling no punches in that interview there and alerting us that -- something I was unaware -- that there are army training videos but the dangers of having much caffeine can and look up by content later. Thank you once again governor and -- as they wait for our next guest tell me a little bit about and walk everybody through the format for tonight's debate houses -- and a. Well -- for these are undecided voters who haven't lived in Nassau County now Nassau County is not the most. Republican area are swing area but there I think those -- it differences -- democratic area right now. Is that a huge advantage for the present. You know there are actually Republicans who say we like the fact that -- -- get undecided suburban voters because. Those are exactly the kind of voters we need to convince those are the same sorts of voters -- about women but suburban women in. Denver suburban women in Virginia suburban women in Columbus, Ohio so. They are actually looking forward to being able to make the case those kinds of voters the format is going to be questions from the audience. The moderator Candy Crowley gets to see those questions she chooses those questions the people in the audience were chosen by the Gallup organization. So bills are the two metrics by which you know you get into this debate. This. Candy Crowley's role as moderator there's been some debate about that how aggressive she can be in following up on those questions. I would expect to see that she will do more than simply. Have a person -- card and then move on but. That that's how that's how it's going to look to the to the voter on that he's watching -- until. Alligators and special -- you talk but as little bit earlier -- special challenges and some really interesting moments we've seen in the past. And yet these town hall they. Right and that the president is not shy about holding town policies -- about sixty since taking office including one just just last month although only one -- -- right but he still it's still format which state is is -- think that he's he's very comfortable we've seen we have we have sentimental moments and some of these town Soledad as you mentioned -- -- on the steps. In these kinds of casual interactions. But added that the the president can also make can -- make some mistakes he hit rather good run with John McCain in 2000. And and -- -- of his -- this morning they were they were perfectly happy to see this format tonight. The op -- and I think they both have an -- issue. Both of these candidates can come across we -- in the last debate as. Two academic. Too focused on the numbers and not being able to make that connection between all these numbers up -- -- around five trillion Nissen. Billions that to the average person -- so I think. That -- is quite right it's going to be both candidates that are trying to win that empathy peace. Let's get back out to Long Island now Robert Gibbs is the former White House spokesman and currently AS senior campaign advisor for team Obama. -- -- -- -- Why all this consternation about the CNN. Anchor Candy Crowley was moderate tonight's debate -- -- this consternation about. Her asking follow -- having had a heaven for fend. That somebody holds the candidates responsible for the things they're saying. Why is this a problem. Few caveats and have no idea why this is a problem IEI I'd. I'm gonna say this and I am sure -- is gonna get mad at me. I don't actually think most problems are solved by getting two lawyers into -- -- into a room to write an agreement. I think the president is happy to take questions from any undecided -- that -- calls on. I think the president's happy to take questions and follow up questions from candy it's an -- Candy Crowley show on Sunday. I came away perfectly unharmed and unscathed. Again I don't expect anybody certainly -- our side has a problem with taking follow up question. Robert let's talk about the situation we have today which looks very different from the one we had two weeks ago -- first debate were you guys were riding high in the polls now all close showing this race very tight and number. -- the president behind. Does does big game changer in this debate it is he coming in as the underdog right now. Well look I was asked earlier for the underdog and I'm happy to be the underdog every day for the rest this campaign. That's the way will prosecute this campaign every day going forward. Look I don't actually think we've seen this dramatic sea change in the past few weeks I think we've seen a natural tightening in this race. -- tightening that we certainly always expected would happen. I think the president has a couple of missions tonight. To go out there and be passionate and energetic. In presenting what he wants to do to continue to strengthen this economy -- the course of the next four years to the American people. Remind us where weaved in and talk about the choices in this campaign if the president does that tonight. He's going to be fine and I think. He's got the better case to press in this today. I'm Robert -- just -- for 12 of it are the natural tightening question. Are you arguing that it had this debate gone another way -- -- either been attire the president had -- we'd still -- -- the polls looking like this. What. Saying is this was never going to be if you looked at some of these either state or national polling. This was not an eight -- ten point race it never was going to be when Barack Obama got 360. Some electoral votes for years ago. The F 53% of the vote. But what -- also arguing is we have not seen some dramatically huge. Overarching shift in this campaign that there's not a day in this race. Including today for including the last time we -- in -- Denver that I would rather be part of the Romney campaign and have their political position. Then be part of our campaign and have -- political position I'm perfectly comfortable with where we are. Robert -- you pull back the -- a little bit how does someone prepare for a tumble debate how is it different from the Kennedy that we had we had last. -- I mean look I think it's it's I think it's a fascinating and interesting format I think it will seek the president well. You know obviously. The first and foremost you have got to make a connection with. The voter because you're hearing not an esoteric policy issue as you might from a moderator you're hearing this in the voice through the cares and concerns. Somebody that's living that experience right now in this country. So I think first and foremost each of these candidates and -- the president will speak directly to these voters. And talk about where they are and where he is in him in trying to improve their lives. And again I also think if you look back at the town hall meetings in the past. There's plenty of room both for candy do follow ups but also for the candidates. To make their case in the point out the big choice in this race. I think he you know it's really about making that connection and talking directly to voters when they are. Robert Gibbs thank you and check your Blackberry that you get some angry emails from lawyers believe that they can in -- underground. We appreciate your time hey no matter. Thank you so. Do you expect to hear the words tonight 47% -- that we did not hear much to the consternation of Democrats everywhere from the president Milosevic. I expect to hear it both sides expect it's going to be part of the dialogue whether comes from McCain and the candidate or whether it comes from a voter in fact. You could argue that the Romney campaign actually wants that question because they know that they need to answer it is still floating out there. There are prepared answer it at the first debate didn't come up. I know they want to be able to antennas because they feel like they have a good response and especially to -- make that response to a real voter. Rather than to sort of since the great atmosphere. And both sides have found that that video and and governor Romney's comments -- really penetrated and they've they've both sides say -- this one actually really echoed this was not just inside the beltway. Media moment that this actually -- actually shaped people's -- governor. Again if you look at the inside of the ABC news Washington Post poll that came out yesterday even though we've seen this tightening on many of the fundamental. Views of Mitt Romney he's got problems in terms of like ability trustworthiness empathy and a lot of that I would imagine stem from four is that. 37% from the beating that he's been taking from the Obama campaign and his allies -- creating this caricature of him. And the other issue is competence and still -- if you look inside the numbers are ABC news post washing post fall that. The president. Not seen -- particularly strong -- handling the economy but Mitt Romney not -- as any better he needs to move those numbers. If he's -- overtake the president he's going to be seen as better able to handle the economy and the current. Facility despite all the tightening in the polls and and it's quite dramatic. It does does mr. -- -- still actually hold somewhat of an advantage give in Ohio. Sure absolutely I mean it's it's you know the Grammy folks happily tell you that that it's no Republican has won the White House in in in the modern era without carrying Ohio. The Obama folks are saying the word firewall yet because you know that would imply that they're really being a retreat ever else but they're saying you know well look so Ohio. Maybe we can make it hard for him and in in Florida and a couple -- of the states in Virginia. But obviously Ohio -- a huge prize and and they're pretty confident that Romney's path to the White House narrows almost two an impossible extends. In another point that was made by Gary Langer are polling expert and in the -- -- in my yesterday is that. If nobody breaks 50%. That is really come down on the ground game what do we know level as a superior ground game right now. Well Goucher -- society toenails and this is ideal and everybody has spent time in the past ground and since they invented issues. Did so today you can never come they they deal I -- it is exactly that wait to hear my other. Voices and running dialogue Alan Boyes that you -- that -- and -- that we're testing the limits an annual participants. But look we're gonna get from some of these states we're gonna get an early tally of what these fighters are but but but in terms of -- -- that it currently. Well both sides say is look it's not about just racking up numbers it's about the kind voters you get to come -- he won again. Those voters who. Has committed to going to -- apples and on that right it may. They may have left a meeting and they -- a couple actions here and you want to thank those folks right now so that if on November 6. They decide that they have other things to you. You are up and taking care that really enthusiastic people you don't need to banks and is now -- gonna turn them. Right you wanna get for -- got such it would lock command while they're on your science and get -- cast -- -- because they could still change their mind choose 34. And as many more times -- One last voice from Long Island ABC's Devin Dwyer -- you wrote a piece that that's. Now on ABC news that top of of the five things to look for tonight and never fired his body language in past town hall debates. We've had some interesting moments involving body language. McCain in 2008 seeming to wander around the stage. And in 2000 Al Gore. Getting as George W. Bush said it up and his opponents Chile. In the ability that they're walking right up to -- you expect anything like that tonight. I don't know it's it's certainly going to be something that we're all watching I think that's what makes these town hall. Their format stand one one of the most fun type of debates every year. -- -- -- It's it's been a challenge we've we've heard from experts on both sides body language -- experts campaign aides. President Obama's very comfortable physically in this setting in this case if they Saddam high chairs with little coffee tables next and they can get up from around the stage. You know Mitt Romney -- a little bit less comfortable on that and that type -- sentence will be -- -- to see how he handles himself he showed such poisons such discipline in the last debate. I'm looking at the president straight face the whole time -- and as you guys have been talking about. President Obama took a little -- heat for his smirking for looking down for being a little bit lazy if you -- with his his presidential poised to war. Definitely watching that. And it seems intrusive body language that the president even before this debate has started has changed his body language and -- Before the first debate he was complaining about how he was trapped inside and they're making him do his -- Now he's standing outside talking about how excited he is to get to this debate how happy is to be working hard. Is is there are real change that you -- sensing both front -- campaign and the candidate. There they're certainly trying to trying to loosen him up a little bit. Put a smile on his face today just a few minutes ago he. Emerged from -- hotel. Hotel room and in Westford here in Virginia rather said he feels fabulous she's excited it's a beautiful day. -- a bit of a photo op to kick off -- day before squeezing in the last debate prep session and he's in the air. Right now so I think I think we're definitely seeing that with with the president's -- and and I think the challenge for him is going to be not to -- compensate. After his performance last time -- not to be too aggressive in this type of reform -- too energetic to out of place if you will. For for a set in that that really were the focus is on the questioners. -- -- -- -- presentation to fight the last war. -- Larry thank you very much we appreciate it as he says -- today is all about real people asking real questions and ABC's -- Cutler found some real people. All them I believe under the age of nine. And found out what they would want to ask. They can even drop in fact they sometimes have trouble just staying in the lines. Put these young Americans will someday have a say in who's the next president. -- health. Care. Don't put the youth vote at the kids' table in 2008. 18% of electric was made up of eighteen to 29 year old so we wanted to know what these voters in training. What as the candidates what would you ask. Mitt Romney he was sitting there. Yeah -- Mike rules likewise. Yeah. Don't think yeah. Okay what was said at that time was was not appropriate and what would you ask the president -- sitting. And -- -- -- to -- -- entity to be the president again I haven't gotten everything done that I want to give up. And what would you ask -- from the moment. My tax plan is to encourage investment in growth in America more jobs that means more people paying taxes. -- -- -- -- -- -- I'm just mostly eye candy here. These pint -- proponents of democracies -- -- the issues so. Keep an eye out for these -- and their future home. Could be in the White House Dan Cutler ABC news. -- really cute elevated of one of those worried about taxes yes every two -- were very apparently. We will be back at 8 o'clock we're -- hourlong pregame show before tonight's debate at 9 eastern and then after the debate at 1030 -- we have another hour of post game analysis. Thank you for joining us we'll see you tonight.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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