WASHINGTON (AP) -- Finally, the fall season offers the matchup sure to attract the biggest audience of the campaign: President Barack Obama goes one-on-one with Republican rival Mitt Romney in three prime-time debates.
Typically the top political draw in the final sprint to Election Day, the debates assume outsized importance this year with the race a dead heat.
The two polished candidates will have their sound bites and rhetoric down cold so any slip or inadvertent move -- like President George H.W. Bush's exasperated glance at his watch or Democrat Al Gore's repeated sighing -- could roil the campaign for days and linger in voters' mind until Nov. 6.
The first debate is set for Oct. 3 in Denver. The other two will take place later in the month.