CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – It's crunch time for President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney before they take the stage for the first presidential debate of the 2012 election season.
Both have more or less suspended campaigning since the weekend and have spent time preparing for Wednesday night's topics. They're topics and answers that could help establish the candidate's position among voters in the close race. All eyes will be on the debate scene in Denver, Colorado. The debate helps campaigns draw in people who haven't paid much attention to the presidential scene.
"As hard as that may be to believe, especially in Iowa where we're inundated with things all of the time." said UNI Political Science Professor Donna Hoffman. "Some people aren't tuning in yet, some people start tuning in after the conventions and the debates are one of the things they start to watch."
Voters will tune in to see how both men think on their feet. The candidates are under a lot of pressure not to be caught saying something they shouldn't. Hoffman said many voters will focus on Mitt Romney's words because he hasn't had the four years president Obama has had in the spotlight. Hoffman said Iowa Republicans will be among those watching closely.
"We've had a lot of republicans that were supporting Ron Paul who went to the Republican National Convention and did that and there's a little uncertainty among Iowa Republicans about Romney, and I think they want to be assured, I think, in his debate performance," Hoffman said.
The candidates will debate domestic policy topics. Hoffman doesn't expect Iowans will hear a lot about issues that specifically impact Iowa. Instead, the debate will have a bigger focus on national issues that all Americans are concerned about, like the economy and health care.
She said if Iowans aren't satisfied and want to know more about the local impact, they can just wait to get more information when the candidates return to Iowa in the coming weeks before Election Day.
"You are able to meet the person, look them in the eye and ask them a question to see how they perform, and certainly the candidates gear their remarks and events that are in Iowa more to the state audience than they do to the national audience," Hoffman said.
Hoffman added that the presidential debates don't typically make or break an election for one candidate. Instead, it typically confirms the path people were planning to take when it comes to voting for one of the candidates. Only a couple, since they've started, proved to be pivotal in changing the campaigns, like the 1980 debate where Ronald Reagan's performance gave him the lead over Jimmy Carter.
This will be the first of three presidential debates. It begins Wednesday night at 8:00.