Photo Credit: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images; Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images
The first presidential debate hits the airwaves tonight from 9-10:30 PM EST from the University of Denver. Be sure to watch and chat live with iVillage Chief Correspondent Kelly Wallace and our iVoices to sound off on the candidates’ responses and what matters most to you as a voter. Join the live chat during the debate here.
In the meantime, here are five of the things we’ll be looking out for:
1. Will someone goof up big time?
Let’s be honest. As much as we want to get to the meat of the most pressing topics currently facing the nation, aren’t we also morbidly curious to see if either of the candidates will crash and burn in a major way?
President Barack Obama tends to come off as professorial -- some might say droning -- but he’s well known as a skilled (and experienced) debater and orator. His challenge will be to come off as accessible and to the point, and to give good sound bites.
Mitt Romney, on the other hand, while an experienced debater too, is known for his goofs and gaffes -- including a major, wince-inducing debacle over the London Olympics on what was supposed to be a slam-dunk trip abroad this summer.
To deemphasize his significant wealth and come off as an of-the-people guy, he might want to avoid suggesting another “$10,000 bet” on the debate stage, as he did while sparring with Rick Perry.
2. Will there be any great one-liners?
Throughout history, debates have provided us a slew of one-liners that jump from the stage right into the general lexicon and stay with us for years. (I give you Ronald Reagan’s “There you go again,” or Lloyd Bentsen’s “You are no Jack Kennedy.”) Will the candidates provide us with any such memorable moments this year?
Seems likely! According to The New York Times, Mitt Romney is working on his zingers. “Mr. Romney’s team has concluded that debates are about creating moments and has equipped him with a series of zingers that he has memorized and has been practicing on aides since August,” the Times reports.
3. Will the economy dominate?
With the economy and jobs on the minds of most American voters in this election cycle, we’ll be looking to see if those topics indeed become the emphasis of the debate. Recent polls have shown the president erasing Romney’s lead as the candidate voters say would be more effective at creating jobs and bringing back a strong economy. Obama will make the point that, under his administration, the economy is in recovery and ready for major growth. Romney is likely to use Obama’s record to paint an entirely different picture, and position himself as a clear alternative.
4. What will body language reveal?
Much has been made not just of the words of past debaters, but also of their body language. The first president Bush, in a gesture of impatience or boredom, checked his watch while debating Bill Clinton. And Al Gore famously sighed repeatedly during his first debate against George W. Bush. Will the candidates trip up on their non-verbal cues?
5. Will the candidates stick to the facts?
The candidates have each accused the other of not having their facts in order, and for twisting or obfuscating data to the point of falsehood. Obama has often said that Romney’s tax plan doesn’t add up, so watch for the president to press him on the specifics of the plan Romney says would lower income tax rates without increasing the budget deficit.
For his part, Romney intends to press the president on the truth -- but in such a way that it won’t alienate independent voters. "Am I going to spend my time correcting things that aren't quite accurate? Or am I going to spend my time talking about the things I want to talk about?" the candidate said earlier this month, according to the Huffington Post.
You can also live stream the debate or catch it on demand if you miss it on Xfinitytv.com's Election Central -- a new program offering live streaming of all the presidential and vice presidential debates as well as on-demand video archives of top moments during the presidential campaign. Check it out!
Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles-based writer and iVillage’s Chief Election News Blogger. Follow her on Twitter: @alicedubin.