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Obama And Romney Set For Presidential Debate
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney go head to head tonight in the first presidential debate of this year's race for the White House.
The President will face his Republican challenger on a stage in an ice hockey arena at the University of Denver in Colorado - with an estimated 50 million Americans watching on TV.
Mr Obama has edged ahead in opinion polls nationwide and in the handful of crucial swing states that will decide the election.
Analysts say Mr Romney needs a good performance in the debate - the first of three this month - to get his campaign back on track after a stuttering few weeks.
The 90-minute debate in Denver will see the candidates tackle domestic affairs and half of the time will be taken up with questions on the troubled economy.
With 34 days to go until the election, both candidates have to show they are the safest pair of economic hands.
Speculation has gone into overdrive over how the two men will approach the debate - critics say Mr Obama tends to become aloof and long-winded when challenged while Mr Romney can appear out of touch with ordinary Americans.
Both campaigns have been trying to lower expectations of their candidate's chances ahead of the debates - the hope of the winning 'zinger' one-liner balanced by the fear of a crippling gaffe.
One of the places where they hope voters are watching is the city of Golden, Colorado, just a 20-minute drive from the debate stage.
The city is one of three areas in the state which have pockets of independent voters - which way they swing on election day will decide who wins the White House.
"I'm hoping to hear something inspirational from them," one of those Golden voters told Sky News. "I hope there's a discussion because right now there's just a whole lot of mud-slinging."
"I want to hear that we're going to see something different from the last four years," said another.
Colorado has also been one of the places to see a surge of campaign money pouring in to buy television commercials. Some swing states have seen 10 times the amount of money spent on ads compared to 2008.
Missy Evenson, sales manager for Denver's ABC network, said that the spending would only increase if the race remains neck-and-neck.
She said: "It will only intensify from here on out. It is the beginning of the rollercoaster ride, when you're in the car and you're going straight up. We'll be in that phase for the next three weeks."
Political media analyst Ken Goldstein told Sky News that advertising "can be decisive" when the race is as close as it is this year.
One of the most familiar ads is one produced by the Obama campaign and featuring Mr Romney's now-infamous '47%' comment at a fundraiser earlier this year.
That has undoubtedly damaged Mr Romney's chances but Colorado offers plenty of alarming signs for those hoping to secure the president a second term.
A state that saw so much Obama-mania in 2008 now shows a faded enthusiasm, especially among those struggling with economic worries.
Lisa Duran, who worked on the Obama campaign in 2008, told Sky News: "My enthusiasm is so different from '08. Now we've seen what it's like to have Obama for four years and clearly there are many more obstructions than I thought there would be."
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