Obama expected to show his tougher side at next debate
Savaged for his weak performance in the first US presidential debate and with his re-election hopes on the line, Barack Obama has promised to come out fighting against White House rival Mitt Romney when the head-to-head series resumes in New York tonight.
Senior advisers to both candidates have said they expect to see much more aggression from the president in this debate than in Denver a fortnight ago.
His passive stance and subdued demeanour drew criticism from supporters and cost him heavily in the opinion polls, turning an eight-point advantage into a 49 per cent to 45 per cent deficit in before-and-after studies conducted by from the Pew Research Centre.
“Nobody’s a harsher critic than the president is of himself, and he viewed the tape,” David Axelrod, chief strategist to Mr Obama’s re-election campaign, said in a TV interview.
“I think he’s going to make some adjustments. I think he’s going to be aggressive in making the case for his view of where we should go as a country.”
With three weeks until the 6 November election, Mr Romney has seized momentum that seemed unlikely a couple of weeks ago. A series of perceived gaffes, including the release of a secretly filmed video in which he attacked the 47 per cent of Americans who pay no income tax, threatened to derail his entire campaign.
Now, experts say, it is Mr Obama who has the most to lose at Hofstra University on Long Island tonight, where he will look to build on running-mate Joe Biden’s morale-restoring showing against rival Paul Ryan in the only vice-presidential debate of the campaign last Thursday.
“It could be critical,” John Pickering, professor of political science at Florida’s Lynn University, where next Monday’s final presidential debate will be held, told The Scotsman.
“With Obama’s sub-par performance and a big shift in Romney’s favour, this debate now has extra significance. You’re going to see Obama much more lively and much more aggressive, and trying to use the 47 per cent remark to his advantage.”
Prof Pickering also believes the format of the debate – a town hall-style event with candidates answering questions from the audience instead of sparring directly with each other – can help Mr Obama.
Prof Pickering said: “He’s not a great debater but when he is talking too people one-on-one, that’s one of his strong suits. The environment of this debate is better suited to him.”
The debate will focus in part on foreign policy, with issues likely to include the Obama administration’s reaction to the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last month in which the American ambassador was assassinated, as well as the candidates’ policies on Syria and their plans to stop Iran building a nuclear weapon.
Each subject prompted some testy exchanges between Mr Biden and Mr Ryan during last week’s vice-presidential debate.
Mr Romney is also expected to resume his attacks on the president’s handling of the economy and the Affordable Care Act – dubbed “Obamacare” by its opponents – that was the cornerstone of the president’s first term in office.
Ed Gillespie, senior adviser to the former Massachusetts governor, said Mr Romney was not fazed by the prospect of Mr Obama being more aggressive.
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