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Tonight's presidential debate will be the first time incumbent President Barack Obama squares off against GOP challenger Mitt Romney, in a race that's still too close to predict.
According to a trio of national polls published Monday, the two candidates are running neck-and-neck ahead of tonight's presidential debate. The results show just three percentage points separate the two.
This first of three sessions focuses on domestic policy. It's divided into six 15-minute segments; the first three focus on the economy, then healthcare, the role of government, and governing.
While many political analysts say Romney's chances hinge on his performance tonight, President Obama doesn't have enough of a lead to sit comfortably.
Following are some key issues that each much address and explain in the first debate of Election 2012.
Tonight's Presidential Debate Topics
- The Economy, Taxes and Jobs
With the sorry state of the struggling U.S. economy, how each candidate plans to boost economic growth, what he has in store for taxes, how he will help underwater homeowners and his strategy for lowering the elevated unemployment rate will undoubtedly be the central subjects of Wednesday's debate.
President Obama wants to extend tax rates for all but the wealthiest 1%. He also supports tax breaks that would encourage companies to expand in the U.S., as well as breaks for investments in education and infrastructure.
Romney wants tax breaks extended for all Americans. He also wants a smaller, less involved government that he says would incite business potential across all industries while also lighting a fire under the sleepy job market.
Romney has vowed to create some 12 million jobs by the end of his first term. President Obama maintains that his JOBS Act, never given a chance to fully take effect, is what will bring down the unhealthy unemployment level. It simply needs more time.
Look to see at what juncture President Obama mentions Romney's secretly taped tirade about people who don't pay income taxes.
Romney's rebuttal should equally zing and sting. His stance supporting tax extensions across the board should win him votes among the rich. And, he will most likely point out that unemployment has been stuck at or above 8% for 43 months under President Obama's helm.
Editors Note: Wouldn't it be phenomenal if someone asked the candidates ?
- The Federal Debt
Romney has his sights set on reducing ballooning federal debt that has swelled to more than $16 trillion under President Obama's reign.
The GOP hopeful plans to cut the deficit by cutting discretionary and spending entitlements. Obama's plan includes spending cuts coupled with taxes increases on the wealthy.
Watch to see if Romney highlights how spending has mushroomed while President Obama has been in the White House to a current average debt amount of $3.86 billion a day (according to the national debt clock).
The president could counter that Romney's plan would harm vulnerable Americans.
- Social Security and Medicare
As part of efforts to reduce the deficit, the president has voiced his willingness to implement changes in both Social Security and Medicare.
Romney favors keeping current benefits for older Americans intact, and for offering Medicare premium support for upcoming enrollees to assist them in their quest for securing their own insurance. Future Social Security benefits he believes need to be adjusted, with the wealthiest receiving less.
The president could argue that Romney's arrangement would in effect end Medicare.
Conversely, Romney could stress that both programs are presently endangered and both are heading toward oblivion.
- Health Care
President Obama's legacy, his self-named healthcare reform bill dubbed Obamacare, began in 2009 and was signed into law in 2010. The officially named Affordable Health Care Act aims to provide health insurance to all Americans, reduce the cost of healthcare and remove the burden that health care has become on the average American.
Pledging to dismantle Obamacare on Day One if elected, Romney calls it an expensive bureaucratic tangle. Romney's answer is Romneycare 2.0, his healthcare reform plan that also carries his moniker. Among its features are returning more healthcare control and power back to the states.
Citing that Obamacare is nothing more than a tax on Americans, Romney will most probably paint the widely unpopular health law as an expansion of government.
President Obama on the other hand will note that Obamacare closely mirrors the health care overhaul Romney implemented while governor of Massachusetts.
Tonight's Debate: Candidates Ready their Weapons
Both President Obama and Romney will come out with their boxing gloves on. But it won't all be throwing punches – each will have a lot of juggling to do in the face-off.
"The problem Romney has is that he has to do a number of things, some of which conflict with each other, " John Weaver, former advisor to last Republican nominee John McCain told The Wall Street Journal.
As for the president, Rep. Peter Roskam, an Illinois Republican who debated President Obama during their tenure in the state legislature told the WSJ, "He's got to knock it out of the park three debates in a row."
When asked if he would bring a "sense of jugular" to the debate, Romney said in a radio interview Friday with Washington, D.C. station WMAL, "Well, I frequently point out the differences. And you will hear that very pointedly expressed. "
President Obama, a skilled orator, played down his debating prowess Sunday at a campaign rally in Las Vegas. The president said Americans deserve a discussion focused on what each candidate aims to do to keep the nation growing and to restore security to the middle class.
Get ready for round one.
Tonight's presidential debate will be held at the University of Denver, CO, and will air 9 p.m. eastern time.
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