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What Do Voters Look For During Debates? [POLL/AUDIO]

We are only a few weeks away from Election Day and at this point, most voters know what they’re getting and have already made up their minds when it comes to President Barack Obama or Republican Candidate Mitt Romney. But, there is still about ten percent of the electorate that is willing to move.

Win McNamee, Getty Images

The two will go head-to-head tonight in the second of three debates.

“We saw it happen after the first debate when Mitt Romney picked up quite a bit of support, in fact a net four or five point swing in the national polls towards him, because of his performance in that debate,” said Patrick Murray, Director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

“Voters are looking for comfort levels,” said Murray. “It’s either a comfort level with the incumbent and where the direction of the country is going or a comfort level with the challenger that he won’t be worse than what we have now.”

The debate may not mean much when it comes to New Jersey though.

“In New Jersey, Obama is up by a double-digit lead, so the debate won’t have any impact here. Even if Romney can gain four or five points among New Jerseyans, it’s not going to make much of a difference because the President still has a very sizable majority here,” said Murray.

What do the candidates have to do to win those who are undecided? “What we saw in the first debate was the incumbent President didn’t really engage in the debate and that turned people off and the challenger came out as a kinder, gentler, more moderate type of politician than we had seen up until that point. That made people more comfortable with the challenger than the incumbent,” said Murray. “In tonight’s debate, we need to see Romney continue building on that and concentrating on those folks in the middle who don’t like the partisan bickering and these ideological battles. They want someone they can feel comfortable with and Romney gave them that in the first debate.”

“Barack Obama has to come out and start challenging Romney, making people uncomfortable with his stands and making people question whether he really believes what he’s saying,” said Murray. “For Obama, it would be even better if his campaign went back to the ideological battleground that we had seen before, because in that base election, where you’re not appealing to the moderates but you’re really appealing to the ideological extreme, it looked like Obama was doing better in the swing states than he was nationally.”

“So, we have Mitt Romney, who will try to build on that moderate image he’s been trying to build on for the past week, whereas Barack Obama has to shoot that down, by painting it as a flip-flop or by going back to his ideological argument that has divided the electorate, but enabled him to build up his base,” said Murray.


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