Aubrey Jewett previews tonight's presidential debate

10/07/08 Mitch E. Perry
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In less than three hours, Barack Obama and John McCain will meet at Belmont University in Nashville for the second presidential debate of the election season. This debate will be held in Town Hall Meeting style.

Although the Commission on Presidential Elections does not release the rules, various media reports say the questions asked will be culled from a group of 100 to 150 uncommitted likely voters in the audience and another one-third to come via the Internet. Moderator Tom Brokaw of NBC will select the questions to ask from written queries submitted prior to the debate.

Also according to the rules, an audience member isn’t allowed to switch questions and will not be allowed a follow-up either. His or her microphone will be turned off after the question is read and a camera shot will only be shown of the person asking — not reacting. The moderator may not ask followups or make comments.

Aubrey Jewett is a professor of political science at the University of Central Florida. He says the format may favor John McCain, but he isn’t certain the "take the gloves off" approach McCain employed over the weekend will work tonight.

The debate comes on the heels of a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that provides mostly good news for Barack Obama. He leads McCain by a 49 to 43 percent margin; among Independents, Obama now leads by 4 points. In a similar poll two weeks ago, Independents favored John McCain by 13 points.

The poll suggests Obama could be vulnerable to race-based attacks tying him to unpopular black figures such as his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, as well as the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Thirty-five percent of all voter – and 40% of whites – say those connections bother them. And that’s without the McCain campaign so far making an issue about Reverend Wright, despite Sarah Palin’s admission to William Krystol in the New York Times yesterday that she wishes McCain would do so.

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