Not sure where to tune in to Wednesday night's debate? You can watch Obama and Romney on CBS, NBC, PBS, MSNBC, Fox News, CSPAN and CNN on television or watch via live stream on YouTube, AOL, or through this link.
The president and the former Massachusetts governor will debate for 90 minutes, with the event ending at 10:30 p.m. EST. Jim Lehrer of PBS NewsHour will serve as moderator.
According to the Commission on Presidential Debates, the non-profit and non-partisan body that sets the agenda for the events, the structure for tonight's Obama-Romney debate is as follows:
“The debate will focus on domestic policy and be divided into six time segments of approximately 15 minutes each on topics to be selected by the moderator and announced several weeks before the debate,” the commission says on its website. “The moderator will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a discussion of the topic.”
The economy will receive the most attention during the debate among domestic issues, according to the New York Times.
In a preview of the debate, the newspaper said the national unemployment rate, which still stands at 8.1 percent, will be a focal point.
How important is the debate to each candidate’s hopes of winning the election? According to Businessweek, the “winner” of previous presidential debates didn’t necessarily go on to win the election.
Take 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry’s performances in his debates with George W. Bush. Kerry was viewed as the clear winner of the debates yet lost to Bush.
“Kerry won three times in the debates and still lost the election,” Kerry campaign adviser, Tad Devine, told Businessweek.
There were only two examples of close races that may have been decided by the debates.
The first televised debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960 (Nixon sweated, looked nervous on television and his makeup didn’t help him with voters, as you can see from this YouTube clip of the historic debate) may have been what turned the tide for Kennedy in a close race. But even some experts aren’t so sure how key the debate performance was to JFK winning the race, considering he had a slim lead before he squared off with Nixon.
“It’s such a charming story,” James Stimson, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina, told Businessweek. “You get the impression Kennedy was on the verge of losing when he debated Nixon. Instead, Kennedy was ahead going in.”
Devine, an adviser to Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, conceded that the debates between Gore and then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush, and the two men's oratory battles “may have changed the outcome” of the contest that gave Bush the presidency.
Gore received bad press after sighing and interrupting Bush after the first debate, which many viewed as unpresidential.
“It changed the dynamic of the campaign,” Devine told Businessweek.