The first of three anticipated debates in the 2012 presidential election will take place tonight at The University of Denver, where presidential hopefuls will discuss domestic policy.
Jim Lehrer, host of PBS’s “NewsHour,” will be the moderator of the debate between Democratic candidate President Barack Obama and Republican candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates’ website.
The debate will be broken up into six sections — each 15 minutes long — focusing on the economy, the role of government, healthcare and governing, with the possibility of adding topics based on new stories or developments leading up to tonight, according to the website.
Lehrer will ask one question at the beginning of each section and the candidates will have two minutes to answer. Lehrer will give each candidate equal time to explain their answers during each section, according to the website.
The debate will run about 90 minutes total.
Though the debate will take place miles away from State College, many local political groups will be getting together for viewing parties for the first one.
Deb Flavin, executive director for Centre County Republicans Committee, said she is very excited for the first debate.
“I’m looking forward to the candidates going toe-to-toe on the issues that matter,” Flavin said.“I think we’re going to see a very stark contrast between the two men that want to lead the country and I hope they both do well.”
Flavin said she hopes Romney “hits it out of the park” during the debate. She said that Americans are restless at this point and need answers to questions on jobs, economy and taxes.
Penn State College Democrats President Drew McGehrin (senior-religious studies and history) said he is expecting the debate to give both candidates an opportunity to speak directly to voters.
“This first debate will set the tone for what’s to come in the next few weeks leading up to election day,” McGehrin said.
McGehrin said he is curious to hear Romney discuss his healthcare plan, especially in regards to young adults currently on their parents’ health insurance and Medicare recipients.
He said Romney wants to repeal and reform healthcare, but hasn’t given any specifics on what his plans are.
McGehrin also said he hopes to see both candidates further explain statements they’ve made in the past few weeks of their campaigns.
When it comes to the economy, Penn State College Republicans Chair Jordan Harris (senior-history) said the focus must be in the details and the candidates must be specific.
“The president and the governor’s interviews on “60 Minutes” was a good preview of some of what we can expect on Wednesday,” Harris said.
A debate format is completely different than an interview format, he said, and it will be interesting to see how they compare and contrast.
Student voters, on the other hand, will be focused on student loans, another important issue for them, Penn State Students For Barack Obama President Taylor Garland (senior-political science), said.
“President Obama will use this debate to speak directly to the American people,” Garland said.”
She said student loans, along with healthcare, need to be discussed in much more detail to fully inform voters.
Yesterday President Obama prepared for tonight’s debate in Nevada while Romney practiced in Denver, where the debate will be held.
The Associated Press Contributed to this report.