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Opinion: 7 Things to Watch for in the First Presidential Debate

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With polls closer than you think, Wednesday night's debate could be a game-changer. Here's what we're watching for.

  • 1. Tense atmosphere: This debate is the most important of the series to be held. Why? Because after a month of trouble at the polls, it's the acid test of how well Mitt Romney can hold up against President Obama. Also it's the one where neither candidate can make a major visual or oral blooper. 

  • 2. Game-changers: Can debates change the course of a campaign? Yes they can but it's rare that ONLY a debate will do this. There have to be underlying positives for the candidate who does well in a debate. If that person is seen as less qualified. Frightening, too rich, too risky, too unknown or even too not likable then a good debate does very little for him. (there are no "hers" running)

  • 3. Obama on the attack: Obama will hit like a sledge hammer on Romney's taxes, wealth, and the 47 percent comment.

  • 4. Romney on the attack: Romney will try to unseat Obama on jobs, sluggish economy, and the huge national debt he is leaving our grandchildren.

  • 5. Romney nerve-tracker: Because his poll numbers are going south in battleground states, Romney has more at stake on Wednesday night. Look for whether he seems more nervous and uncomfortable than Obama mostly.

  • 6. Obama confidence-tracker:
  • Obama has a tendency to get a little glib when he's in the lead - remember "You're likeable enough, Hillary"? The race has tightened slightly in the past week, so President Obama can't take any lead for granted with a month left to go.


  • 7. Watch the spin: The spin machine afterwards will be asking 'Did Mitt Romney get the bump necessary?" and "Did the Romney campaign finally get some new MOMENTUM from this debate?"