Town-Hall Challenge: Can Romney, Obama Look Human?

Channeling Bubba could be the answer
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 16, 2012 5:01 AM CDT
Updated Oct 16, 2012 7:58 AM CDT
Hofstra Public Safety officer Ronald Nardo watches as stand-ins run through a rehearsal ahead of tonight's debate.   (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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(Newser) – It's Round 2 for President Obama and Mitt Romney tonight. Romney is riding high from his trouncing of Obama in the Denver debate, but pundits say neither candidate is a natural at the town hall format, making tonight's debate at Long Island's Hofstra University a potential challenge. Here's what people are saying:

  • Political consultants from both sides expect the rivals to attempt to channel Bill Clinton's masterful '92 town hall performance, the Hill reports. "Bill Clinton understood the choreography," physically approaching each questioner, one Democratic strategist said. "He came across better because of the human connection."

  • Obama supporters think he could connect like that, even if he didn't last time out. "He was so interested in our lives," a woman who met him at an Ohio rally tells the Washington Post. "He’s really good with people."
  • Romney, meanwhile, has experience in the format thanks to his Ask Mitt Anything forums, Politico observes. But his campaign is trying to downplay expectations, predicting an Obama-as-comeback-kid media narrative.
  • The debate will be decided largely based on body language and nonverbal communication, the Los Angeles Times predicts. Undecided voters have heard both candidates' policies "and none of that has persuaded them to commit," a political communications expert says. "These individuals focus more on intangibles."
  • Another hot topic: How active will Candy Crowley be? The campaigns want the moderator to keep quiet, but Crowley won't be cowed. "I’m not a fly on the wall," she tells Politico. "We don’t want the candidates to spout talking points. … I’m going to react organically to what’s happening."
(Read more Mitt Romney stories.)

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