McCain, Obama gear up for second debate

Mon Oct 6, 2008 9:38pm EDT
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By Paul J. Gough

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - With the record-setting vp debate now history, it's back to the top of the ticket on Tuesday night.

John McCain and Barack Obama square off in a town-hall-style debate moderated by NBC's Tom Brokaw at Belmont University in Nashville. It's the second of three debates between the candidates, with the last one scheduled for October 15 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

Experts say that while Thursday's Sarah Palin-Joe Biden vice presidential battle was interesting television, it will probably be long forgotten by the time the voters make their way to the polls.

"It's back to the top two candidates," CNN political analyst Gloria Borger said. "In the end, that's who people are going to be voting for."

The format of Tuesday's debate will stand in stark contrast to the other three. Brokaw may be the moderator, but he won't be asking any questions. Instead, he'll be handing the microphone to a group of ordinary people -- undecided voters all -- who will ask questions that might not be what the mainstream media has been asking.

"It's not the high drama of the YouTube debates. I don't think we'll see any snowmen asking questions (as in the 2004 YouTube debates sponsored with CNN)," said Dotty Lynch, a former CBS News analyst and a faculty member at American University in Washington. "But they are typically pretty interesting. Viewers at home can put themselves into the shoes of the questioners more than they can reporters."

Each question gets a two-minute response from the candidates, followed by one minute of discussion. In the first presidential debate, moderator Jim Lehrer gave two minutes of responses each followed by five minutes of sometimes painfully awkward discussion.

It's also one of the first times in a long time -- perhaps since the retail politics of Iowa and New Hampshire 10 months ago -- that the presidential candidates will have extended interaction with real people. McCain is known to be relaxed and comfortable with the town-hall style format. Obama, not so much, perhaps.   Continued...

<p>Tom Brokaw (bottom C), NBC News Special Correspondent and moderator of the upcoming debate, between US Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), looks over the set at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee October 6, 2008. The second debate between the two candidates takes place October 7th. REUTERS/Rick Wilking</p>