WINCHESTER, VA- The first presidential debate is expected to draw a big audience, but will it change voter opinions?
"There is a very small number of people that have not yet made up their mind," says Dr. Bill Shendow, Political Science Department Chair at Shenandoah University. "There's a small number of states and Virginia is one of them," he adds.
Unemployment, taxes, and healthcare top the list of voter concerns. President Obama has a 2-point lead over Mitt Romney in Virginia, according to the latest NBC/WSJ/Marist polls.
As for undecided voters, "They're not interested in all this confrontation," Shendow says. "They want issues addressed openly and honestly. They're turned off by all of this vindictiveness in the exchange," he adds.
Dr. Shendow says Mitt Romney can not afford a mistake and needs to be relatable. While the president will need to be detailed, but concise.
"The issue for the president is probably how to encapsulate his views in a short period of time," says Shendow. "The president he's prone a little bit to go into more detail. Now on the other hand, in the case of Mitt Romney, people are pressing him for details and you just can' t have it both ways. You will have to make a commitment and show where this savings is going to accrue," Shendow adds.
Locally, most people say they'll watch the debate, but they've already decided their candidate.
"I have made up my mind," says Christopher Franks. "I think we need to put Obama back in office, because it takes a long time to put jobs back into order. It took George Bush almost eight years to, personally in my opinion, mess it up, so maybe it takes Obama eight years to fix it," he adds.
"My mind is pretty much made up," says Nicole Halling. "I plan to vote for Mitt Romney."
Meanwhile, Winchester resident Al Sherwood says he will not watch any of the debates. "My mind is already made," Sherwood says. "I'm going to go for Obama."
Christine Long is from another battleground state, Ohio, but doesn't agree with her party's views on women's health.
"I am a registered Republican, but under the circumstances, I feel that that the Republican party has gone so far to the right that I'm not sure when I might vote for another Republican," she says.
Political scientists say to affect the latest polls, Mitt Romney has to deliver both style and substance and the clock is ticking.
"It is getting pretty late in the game and if something is going to happen to change the direction the election seems to be headed in, it has to happen fairly quickly," Shendow says.
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