With the Democratic and Republican convention out of the way, all eyes now turn to the presidential debates, where Mitt Romney and President Obama will duke it out in a one-on-one intellectual and policy showdown ahead of this year's election in November. In three televised debates (along with one vice presidential debate), both candidates will make their case for why they are the right choice for America for the next four years.
While the nationally televised debates are always an important event in the trajectory of presidential campaigns, this year, the debates take on even more significance, because the latest polls suggest that both Romney and Obama are still virtually in a dead heat. Neither Convention seems to have given either candidate a significant "bump," so it will come down to the last 60 days, and the debates, for voters to make up their mind in November.
Typically, the debates are one the most watched television programs of campaign season, and this year will certainly be no different. Romney and Obama are schedule to go head-to-head in three contests: On October 3rd in Denver, on October 16, town hall-style, in Hempstead, New York, and on October 22 in Boca Raton, Flordia. The final Florida debate will deal with foreign policy, something which Romney may struggle with. Also on the line-up is a vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan in Danville, Kentucky on October 11.
Sensing the importance of the debates and the gravity of what's at stake, the candidate have already begun preparing for the contests. Paul Ryan begins his debate prep on Sunday in Oregon, where he will start by focusing in on likely debate topics and questions (rather than participate in a mock debate). Ryan and Romney will join together for a "debate camp" before the October 11 debate. The Romney campaign has yet to reveal who will play Biden in Paul Ryan's practice debate.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney spent several days this week in Vermont for debate practice sessions at the home of former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey. Ohio Senator Rob Portman is playing the role of Obama in practice sessions.
Mitt Romney may hold the upper-edge in the debates, because he just participated in more than 20 primary debates with his Republican counterparts in the GOP primaries. To be sure, the stakes are much higher and competition much stiffer, but Obama has not participated in a debate like this in four year.
Still, Obama was the clear debate winner in 2008 against John McCain, so he may have no trouble getting back into the swing of things.
Here's the schedule for debates, along the topics that each will cover:
October 3 in Denver, Colorado: Domestic policy
October 16 in Hempstead, New York: Domestic and foreign policy, with questions from undecided voters
October 22 in Boca Raton, Florida: Foreign policy