Audience members at heart of second debate - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Obama, Romney set to clash in town hall contest

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President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney are set to take the stage at Hofstra University for the second presidential debate Tuesday. (Source: CNN) President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney are set to take the stage at Hofstra University for the second presidential debate Tuesday. (Source: CNN)
Hofstra University is located in Hempstead, NY. (Source: Hofstra University/Hofstra Relations) Hofstra University is located in Hempstead, NY. (Source: Hofstra University/Hofstra Relations)
CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley will moderate Tuesday's debate. (Source: Wikimedia/Mark Knight and Jordan Miller) CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley will moderate Tuesday's debate. (Source: Wikimedia/Mark Knight and Jordan Miller)

(RNN) -  President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney retake the spotlight Tuesday, with the audience taking control of the conversation in the second Presidential Debate. Obama will be under pressure to bounce back from his lackluster performance in the first debate, which energized Romney's campaign.

Days after a lively vice presidential debate, the presidential candidates face off in a more intimate setting. Audience members at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY, will gather for a town hall-style forum at 9 p.m. ET.

Most nationwide polls show a virtual tie between the incumbent and challenger.

The town hall debate is unlike the other programs planned by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Instead of the moderator posing questions, audience members address issues and concerns directly to the candidates. The audience can ask questions on domestic and foreign policy.

Both candidates will have two minutes to respond after each question. An additional minute will be used for discussion after their responses. The audience members will be a group of undecided voters chosen by the Gallup Organization.

This is only the fifth time the Commission on Presidential Debates has scheduled a town hall event. The format debuted in 1992 with George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot. The three faced off at the University of Richmond.

Clinton, who went on to win his first term, performed well, with 58 percent naming him the victor in a CNN/USA TODAY poll. Bush and Perot won 16 and 15 percent, respectively.

CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley will moderate the debate. She is scheduled to be the first woman to moderate a presidential debate since former ABC World News Tonight anchor Carole Simpson moderated the 1992 Richmond debate.

Crowley, who hosts the Sunday cable news show State of the Union, is also a notable analyst known for her election night coverage in 2000. She began her broadcast journalism career in Washington, serving as a newsroom assistant after graduating from Randolph-Macon College.

She has been a White House correspondent for the Associated Press and has worked with NBC News and CNN, all in Washington.

Crowley's veteran status and knowledge of the issues led to her choice as moderator of a discussion initiated by audience members.

Foreign policy topics are expected to grab audience interest, since Tuesday's event is the first time international issues can be discussed during a debate between Obama and Romney.

Conversation from Thursday's vice presidential debate could carry over with questions about events in Libya and Syria and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. The relationship between the U.S. and Israel came up in the debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan but did not become a central talking point.

Nevertheless, domestic policy is likely to play a large role with the audience.

Romney may have another opportunity to discuss his proposed budget, after vice presidential debate moderator Martha Raddatz showed skepticism toward the Romney-Ryan debt solution. Obama could also make a final push to defend the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Tuesday will mark the second time Hofstra University and Hempstead have hosted a presidential debate, making it one of only two schools to host a debate in back-to-back elections. The school's first debate was the third and final event between Obama and Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, in 2008.

Although Hofstra might not be a household name, its 12,500 students come from across the U.S. and 65 countries. The campus is located approximately 25 miles east of Manhattan, making the debate site accessible for spectators looking to participate in debate day festivities.

Hofstra has also been busy designing student coursework around the event. Students had the opportunity to register for special fall classes reflecting the election. Courses include Social Media and the Presidential Debates, I'm Voting for God: Religion and the 2012 Presidential Election and Why Can You Vote and Apple, Inc. Can't?

The final presidential debate is planned for 9 p.m. ET Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, FL, and is formatted to exclusively cover foreign policy. The event's outline is structured identically to the first debate, when the candidates were asked six questions chosen by the moderator.

CBS News Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer is scheduled to make his third appearance behind the moderator's table.

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