October 31, 2014

Professor doesn’t expect surprises in tonight’s presidential debate

President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney debate for the first time this evening at the University of Denver.

Nebraska Wesleyan University Political Science Professor Jon Vermeer doesn’t expect a lot of surprises during the hour-and-a-half debate.

“The candidates are pretty well known by now. Obama, of course, is the incumbent president and there was a hard fought nomination campaign that kept Romney in the news. So, we’re really not going to learn very much about the candidates,” Vermeer tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “How they handle themselves, can they avoid mistakes, is probably what most people would be looking for.”

Both campaigns have been prepping, using surrogates to hone their skills prior to the face-off. The debate this evening will focus on domestic issues

Vermeer says to watch for Romney to press Obama on leadership and on the economy, even though some economic indicators lately seem to be trending up.

“But, overall, people are still dissatisfied with where the economy is,” Vermeer says. “As far as leadership is concerned, Obama has not given the image of being a strong leader. He works behind the scenes and not forcefully out in front. And so, I think Romney is going to talk about the kind of leadership the nation needs.”

Vermeer isn’t sure how important tonight’s debate will turn out to be.

“I’d say it’s pretty interesting, but the only people to whom it may make a difference are undecided voters in the swing states and whether they’re watching or not, I don’t know,” says Vermeer.

The debate tonight at the University of Denver begins at 8pm CDT, 7pm MDT. It will last an hour-and-a-half. PBS News Hour Executive Editor Jim Lehrer will moderate. The topics will be the economy, health care, the role of government and governing. There will be six 15-minute segments.

Click here for link to Commission on Presidential Debates website.

Jane Monnich, KLIN, contributed to this report.