Debate Day Round II: Head To Head At Hofstra (The Note)

David Goldman/Eric Gay/AP Photo

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone ) and AMY WALTER ( @amyewalter )


  • TEAM OBAMA - 'POTUS IS READY': ABC's Jake Tapper reports that today President Obama will work out and spend some time with his debate prep team before leaving for New York mid-morning. A source familiar with the president's debate prep says that the president has been preparing for everything from taking on Romney's comments on the '47 percent' to Romney's claim that those with pre-existing conditions are covered under his health care proposal. A campaign source adds that the president will be looking for opportunities to challenge Romney whenever he thinks the Republican is misrepresenting his proposals. Amid a flurry of questions about exactly what role tonight's moderator, CNN's Candy Crowley, Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod tweeted yesterday: "Enough already about moderators. POTUS is ready for a vigorous debate and Q's from all comers!"
  • TEAM ROMNEY - MANAGING EXPECTATIONS: ABC's David Muir reports that the Romney campaign is trying to manage expectations for tonight, arguing that President Obama is much looser, much more comfortable in town hall settings, but they acknowledge he is perceptually behind. One source says they are all very curious to see how he manages to get in digs against Romney while at the same time addressing voters directly in the audience who are asking the questions. A campaign source points out that in Romney's 2002 race for governor of Massachusetts, Romney was trailing Democrat Shannon O'Brien, but said it was his debate performance in the final days of the campaign that propelled him to the win. This is something even O'Brien has acknowledged in subsequent interviews, urging viewers not to underestimate Romney during the debates. Members of the campaign say they're essentially going into this second debate tied in the polls, hoping that if it's a draw, it's a Romney win since he's had the momentum since Denver. Though they are also bracing for Obama comeback stories if the president does well.
  • THE FORMAT: Both candidates have been practicing for the town hall format, and preparing to take questions from wherever they come, ABC's Jake Tapper notes. A Romney campaign source says the Republican's preparation focused on getting the candidate used to questions coming from different people and jumping around topics. The source says the candidate sees tonight as a good chance to cut through all the negative advertising and show voters the guy who can fix the economy.
  • TUNE IN TODAY: Watch today 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 hosted by ABC's Amy Walter and Dan Harris, and full debate coverage begins at 8 p.m.
  • COUNTDOWN TO ELECTION DAY: There are 21 days to go until Nov. 6, 2012. Here are the ABC News battleground state rankings:


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:

  • Denver gave Romney a second chance. After months of being defined by Team Obama and negative ads, voters got a very different view of the Republican nominee. As one undecided voter at a Columbus, Ohio focus group sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania remarked last week: "I saw a different side of Romney that I didn't know existed."
  • Obama has to show voters that he actually wants a second term and that he has some specific answers for why voters should expect the next four years to look any better or different from the previous four. Simply reminding voters of how bad things were when he got to the White House isn't enough. He needs to tell voters what he's going to do to make the next four years better for them.
  • These are two men who often struggle with the "empathy thing." As we saw in Denver, they know how to rattle off numbers and statistics, but neither related all those statistics to real people. Tonight, they will literally be looking those real people directly in the face.
  • Aggressively Appropriate: Partisans like to see their guy throw punches (see, for example, "Biden, Joe"), but that's not what undecided and swing voters are looking for. They want to see what the candidates are going to do for them, not what they are going to say about each other. This puts a premium on being able to subtly undercut your opponent's arguments, while never losing sight of the voter who asked the question in the first place.

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:

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:

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:


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":

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, Yahoo!, Yahoo! News,, 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:


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


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.

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.

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.

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."

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.

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.

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.

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."

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."

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."

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."


-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:

-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:


@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.

@JenniferJJacobs : Each side sees a win in IA early vote strategy: Obama built lead; Romney now making bigger gains in ballot requests.

@HenryBarbour : #Obama sees his lead is gone & trending against him. @MittRomneydriving the race. Obama will do nothing but attack tonight #desperate

@fstonenyt : NYT editorial: The Romney tax "plan" isn't a plan at all, just a rhapsody on tired and deceptive Republican themes.

@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 :

Tune in to 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.