Obama vs. Romney: The presidential candidates second debate set for tonight

Debate 2

Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Media sets up in "Spin Alley" as they prepare for the debate between Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

After a zinger of a vice presidential debate last week, the bosses have a lot to live up to tonight. Just in case you haven't been paying attention: President Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney face off in the second of three presidential debates.

It starts at 9 p.m. eastern (6 p.m. pacific) at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. The town-hall style debate will be moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley.

After what has been universally called a strong Romney victory during round 1, the spotlight is on Obama.

Politico rounded up the punditry and came up with two clear themes: The town-hall format poses a challenge for both men. They'll have to graciously pivot from the individual asking the question to the general public watching at home. The second theme is that if Obama wants a shot at a win, he has to be more engaged.

Politico reports:

"CNN White House correspondent Jessica Yellin said Obama's challenge is to 'show life after his last performance left some supporters in a cold panic and critics asking if really he wants the job.' Unfortunately for Obama's backers, the town hall may prove a difficult place for the president to make that push, Yellin said.

"'The town hall format makes it awkward for him to stage a comeback - because he first has to empathize with questioners before he can deliver his jabs at Governor Romney,' Yellin said in an email. 'And for the man who once gave a 17-minute response at a town hall, brevity will be the soul of a good answer.'"

As for Romney, the AP muses that this is his opportunity to "warm up his image if he connects well with the voters on states."

Mark will be live blogging the debate over at It's All Politics. The debate will be carried by all the major networks, including NPR.

We'll leave you with some reading material:

-- Debate Fever on Campus Helps Lift Hofstra's Image (New York Times)

-- Debating the role of the debate moderator (Boston Globe)

-- Obama Out to Seize Romney's Momentum at "Town Hall" Debate (NBC News)

-- How Obama Could Lose This Debate, Too (Mother Jones)

-- Winning once is hard; winning twice is harder (Washington Post)

-- Romney's Business Skills Evident In His Strong Debating Style (NPR)

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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