After one widely watched debate with Sen. Edward Kennedy that did not appear to have significantly helped the challenger, Mitt Romney, the Republican businessman spent most of Wednesday preparing for a second debate today that may be his last chance.
Linda Divall, Romney's poll taker, said his goal for today is to be as effective as Kennedy in terms of personalizing problems and explaining that the 32-year incumbent's policies have failed in areas like crime and welfare.
She said Tuesday's debate showed that the Republican businessman "was very tenacious and capable of fighting back."
Kennedy, 62, also did no more campaigning than the minimum necessary to be on Wednesday's television news programs. But he offered another task for Romney, telling reporters he hoped his rival would be clearer Thursday in Holyoke about his views of national health insurance than he was in their debate Tuesday night at Faneuil Hall in Boston.
The general political sense was that while Romney, 47, was a smoother debater _ looking at the camera for example, when Kennedy usually looked away _ that had scored no real breakthroughs. Many thought he looked weak when he was unable to discuss his health insurance ideas in any detail or to estimate their cost.
John Gorman, president of Opinion Dynamics of Cambridge, a leading independent polling company, said it was "basically a draw _ so Kennedy won" because he was already ahead.
Gorman's latest telephone survey of 400 voters, conducted on Monday and Tuesday nights, gave the veteran Democrat a 52 percent to 33 percent lead over Romney, with 15 percent undecided. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 5 percentage points.
Gorman said that he expected four-fifths of the undecided voters to break for Romney. But that would still leave Kennedy with a comfortable 55 percent of the vote.
The debate will be shown nationally on C-SPAN at 8 p.m.