Romney and Obama on a face-to-face debate

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Updated October 3, 2012

Republican candidate Mitt Romney is under pressure to produce a strong performance on Wednesday at his first face-to-face debate with President Barack Obama to try to turn around a race for the White House that has been edging away from him.

The 90-minute encounter offers the chance to reach more than 60 million people on television, a far greater audience than watched either candidate speak at the Democratic and Republican conventions.

While that has potential dividends in attracting undecided voters, there is also the risk that one or the other will make a major mistake that can overshadow the campaign in the last five weeks before the November 6 election.

Running behind in the polls, Romney is more in need of a victory than Obama at the University of Denver debate, the first of three such face-offs scheduled in the next four weeks.

“I think he’s got to have a pretty convincing win,” said David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University. “He’s had a bad few weeks and he needs to change the narrative of the campaign.”

The Republican was damaged by a secretly taped video from a private fundraiser in which he said 47 percent of voters are dependent on government and unlikely to support him. It was only one of several recent stumbles by the former Massachusetts governor in his second presidential bid.

At the Denver debate, Romney needs not only to repair some of the damage from the video. He must raise questions about Obama’s handling of the U.S. economy and explain how his own plan would create more jobs and cut the budget deficit.

Romney must get through the debate without losing his cool and without appearing to be disrespectful to Obama, who many Americans like personally despite his struggle to create jobs. And the often robotic Republican could do with showing some personality to make voters feel more comfortable with him.

REUTERS