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?"