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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

5 things to watch in the first presidential debate



Times political editor Adam C. Smith previews the first presidential debate of 2012:

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney hold their first debate tonight at the University of Denver, and by some estimates it may be Romney's best and last chance to shake up the race and overtake the president.

There are only three big, predictable events in a presidential campaign — the vice presidential pick, the convention and the debates — that can give a candidate a jolt of momentum. The first two opportunities did little or nothing to help Romney, and 30 states are already voting.

That could make for a thrilling 90 minutes in Denver, as the president and challenger are side by side for the first time.

Or not. Few debates actually end up significantly altering a presidential campaign, and more often than not they are easily forgettable. Anyone remember a key moment in the John McCain-Barack Obama debates in 2008?

Romney and Obama are competent, smart men who have been practicing their answers, memorizing witty retorts and studying endless debate scenarios to make the most of the night and avoid gaffes.

Here are five things to watch.

[Last modified: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 7:42pm]


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