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Pundits: Hofstra Presidential Debate Could Easily Mean Doom For The Loser

Town Hall Format Sure To Change Approach Of Both President Obama, Romney
President Barack Obama (Photo credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages)/Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (Photo credit: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GettyImages)

President Barack Obama (Photo credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages)/Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (Photo credit: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GettyImages)

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) –  All eyes in the United States and around the world will soon be on a Long Island university.

Hofstra will be center stage for the second presidential debate this election year when President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney go at it inside the university’s Mack Sports Complex on Tuesday night.

It’s been almost two weeks since the last debate, two weeks in which the pressure has mounted on both candidates. But the debate at Hofstra will be a very different experience for both men because it is a town hall format where local residents ask the questions, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported Monday.

“This is where almost everything is at stake, a very difficult format to prepare for because what people are going to remember most is how you treated their neighbor. And the people standing there are their neighbors,” Hofstra professor Larry Levy said.

1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reports

President Obama will want to come out punching after his last debate performance. Candidate Romney will want to continue his last debate performance, but experts said that with a town hall format they have to be careful and deft with their punches.

“Both people have a lot riding on this. We now look at debates as if they were the elections themselves. If you lose here, you could lose the election,” political analyst Hank Sheinkopf said.

The town hall format also puts a premium on trying to connect with real people, so it makes it harder to deliver a scripted attack line.

“I’m expecting that each one will have at least one or two, but when you’re standing there talking to real people ‘gotcha’ lines would make it seems as if you’re using them as foils,” Levy said.

“You have to confront real people. You can talk over the moderator; you can talk over your opponent, but if you talk over a citizen standing there or disparaging, you’re going to get hurt,” Levy added.

Still there was no shortage of advice for the candidates on Monday.

“My advice is to show the two Mitt Romneys, the one in the debate and the one that has been the candidate for six months and the one that’s been the governor of Massachusetts and the one whose platform is totally different than he says it is,” Sen. Charles Schumer said.

“[Obama] has got to hold Mitt Romney accountable for his change in position… and for the views he has toward the middle class,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said.

“[Romney] has to continue doing what he did at the first debate, show that he’s an effective leader and show that he can turn the country around and be an effective leader, show that he can stand up to President Obama and show a strong foreign policy,” Rep. Peter King said.

“I think he should certainly bring up Benghazi for what it says about a president’s leadership. The fact is a month after we still don’t know what happen. Misstatement after misstatement. Also the fact the president said that al-Qaida is decimated and the fact that they carried out an attack which killed the first American ambassador in 30 years,” Rep. King added.

“Barack Obama has to find a way to attack Mitt Romney without appearing rude, nasty or arrogant. Mitt Romney has got to prove again that now the president isn’t up to the attack,” Sheinkopf said.

The economy and foreign policy will surely come up, but to many the economy is most important.

“The economy is the first, the second, the third issue,” Sen. Schumer said.

About 80 randomly selected voters from Nassau County will be the town hall audience. All will have questions, but only about 11 will get to ask them during the 90-minute debate.

It’s sort of ironic that the second debate is in New York because other than fundraisers, both of the candidates are directing their campaign efforts elsewhere.

“The votes of New Yorkers don’t really count for presidential elections. You have suburban voters all over the country who will decide this election, but not a single suburban voter in the New York area is going to have a say,” Levy said.

1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reports

Meanwhile, students at Hofstra were also gearing up for Tuesday’s debate and campaign fever was catching, CBS 2′s Kathryn Brown reported.

“I believe that all eyes are on this debate, and that’s what makes it so much bigger than it would normally be,” Hofstra senior and debate volunteer Ashley Freeman told CBS 2′s Jessica Schneider.

“We’ve been going to so many presentations and events for this.  I’m learning a lot that I did not know before,” sophomore Cynthia Uzoukwu added.

“We’re all obviously really excited to have such a tremendous opportunity to have a national political event happening right here on campus,” student Bill Goodenough told CBS 2′s Brown.

The stage was put in place earlier Monday at the Mack Sports Complex, and historical re-enactments and rallies took center stage, Brown reported. Protesters were already out Monday night. The Secret Service, the FBI and Nassau County police were to be spread across — and above — the Hofstra campus.

Hosting the debate is a unique learning tool, according to some members of the university community.

“It completely inspires them. Part of it is that they realize that the people they watch on television and listen to on the radio are real human beings who went through the same kind of education that they did,” Hofstra political science department chair Rosanna Perotti told WCBS 880′s Peter Haskell.

WCBS 880′s Peter Haskell reports from Hofstra

This is the second presidential election cycle in a row that Hofstra is playing host to a debate. Perotti said that first-hand perspective is irreplaceable.

“I had students on Election Day coming into my office with tears coming down their faces because, remember, many of these students will be voting for the first time. It’s just a profoundly moving experience for them,” Perotti told Haskell.

Few students however, will get the chance to attend the debate itself.

“I would love to, I’m sure everyone would love to but the students do understand that it’s a town hall format and that there are a very limited number of tickets available,” another said.

WCBS 880′s Rich Lamb: Bloomberg Questions Point Of Debates

As for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he’s uncertain whether he’ll be glued to a television as it happens.

“But I’ll watch it afterward. You know, on YouTube you don’t have to watch it while it’s taking place,” he told reporters.

His Honor even questioned the worth of the exercise.

“You know, I think the debates are always interesting. They provide great theater, but in the end, it seems to me, you vote for people who have the same values that you do and you vote for people who you think can address the problems of the country,” Bloomberg said.

He said the presentation skills are interesting, but that’s not what he thinks about when he thinks about who to vote for.

Roads were already closed on Monday night, and Nassau County cops were preparing for overtime to exceed $600,000, a dramatic jump from the money spent in 2008, the last time this campus played host to a debate. What’s more, taxpayers will foot the bill for all the overtime, CBS 2’s Schneider reported.

“We did not have a sitting president here in 2008. Now we have a sitting president, so those factors, the cost will increase,” Inspector Kenneth Lack said.

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