Presidential Debate Expectations in Mid-Michigan

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Undecided voters may have a better idea of who they'll choose for president after Wednesday's debate performance. Unlike ads and speeches, the debates provide the first unscripted opportunity to hear from the candidates side-by-side. The debate will last 90 minutes and according to a local expert, the debates can have a big impact on the race.

"My expectations are probably pretty low," said Jim Keenan, from Dimondale. "I think they really are playing to the audience, telling to those subsections of the population, what they want to hear and what's going to get them off the fence."

After months of talking back and forth around each other, Wednesday night for the first time Barack Obama and Mitt Romney face-off, and Mid-Michigan will be watching.

"Those are just the key points that they will say, job creation, economy, the middle class," said Christy Jones, from East Lansing. "I think they are going to use those terms without being specific about it."

Matt Grossmann is a political science professor. He says debates are among the most liked part of the presidential race.

"The people who don't usually like political events tend to like debates because they say you get an unscripted appearance by the candidate where you get a sense of how the candidate performs under pressure," said Matt Grossmann, an assistant professor in MSU's Dept. of Political Science.

Wednesday's debate is broken into five, 15 minute segments. The first three will focus on the economy, then they will switch to healthcare and conclude on a debate over the role of government. Then each candidate will make some closing statements. The candidates have no idea what questions they will be up against.

"We have seen examples where candidates are surprised by the questions they get and that does sometimes result in a moment that we remember," said Grossmann.

"Hopefully they are just able to have a good debate, and you know everybody can speak their sides and hopefully it will help make people's decisions a little easier," said Jaime Brook of Lansing.

"Even if somebody doesn't gain or loose from the debate," said Grossmann. "They might make a promise that then affects what they do once they get in office, so that's an important aspect of [the debates]."

Grossmann said the candidate that's behind in the race has the most to gain from debates, which means if Romany performs well, he might win some undecided voters.

Grossmann said about three percent of Americans are still undecided.

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