President Barack Obama enters his second debate Tuesday against Mitt Romney looking to regain his footing and determined to prevent the Republican challenger from scoring another strong debate performance that could further revitalize the GOP presidential nominee's campaign.
And, by all indications, both candidates are braced for a spirited encounter.
The rhetorical fireworks that had been absent in the first debate on Oct. 3 in Denver between Romney and Obama are almost certain to appear at the second of three presidential debates this fall, this outing set for 9 p.m. ET on the campus of Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
The Obama campaign has sent signals that the president has every intention of actively challenging Romney onstage this evening, frustrating the GOP candidate's efforts to appeal to independents and moderates the way they had in their first debate.
Romney, meanwhile, has hopes that a second straight positive debate showing would add further momentum to his campaign. The former Massachusetts governor trailed Obama before the Denver debate, but Romney's strong outing has breathed new life into his campaign. A slew of national and state-level polls that have shown a tighter race for the White House in the 13 days since that first debate, with Romney pulling even — or even ahead — of Obama in some polling.
With Tuesday's second presidential debate looming, both candidates spent Monday hidden from the media. President Obama geared up in Virginia while Mitt Romney stayed near his home in Massachusetts. NBC's Chuck Todd reports.
"I know no debate is ever the same and it's going to be fun to watch — maybe more fun for you than for me," Ann Romney said Monday in Pennsylvania about her husband's preparations for the second debate, "but one thing I know for sure: Mitt's prepared, Mitt's confident, Mitt's got a good presence about him, and Mitt's running because he believes in America."
First Thoughts: Why tonight's debate could be so crucial
The Romney resurgence and Democratic handwringing about the president's low-wattage performance in the first debate have prompted a shift in Obama's tack. Democrats almost universally hope for and expect a feistier performance by the president on Tuesday, a shift in strategy that has been telegraphed by the Obama campaign.
A campaign source, for instance, told NBC News on Monday that the president planned to bring up Romney's disparaging comments about the "47 percent" of Americans he said wouldn't vote for him because they depend on government. Obama declined to use this and other potent cudgels against Romney in the first debate.
"I think he's going to be aggressive in making the case for his view of where we should go as a country," Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday on Fox in anticipation of the debate. "I mean, we saw Governor Romney sort of serially walk away from his own proposals and certainly the president is going to be willing to challenge him, on it, as we saw the vice president challenge Paul Ryan."
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus talks about the Romney campaign's ground game and why the GOP is doing a better job in this election than they did in 2008. Priebus also discuss absentee ballots and which swing states could decide the election.
The potential for a contentious showdown on national television could transform the second debate into another turning point in the 2012 campaign.
Romney and Obama each holed up for much of the weekend and through Monday to practice for the second debate, which is moderated by Candy Crowley of CNN. She'll serve as the mediator between the candidates and also the audience in this town hall format, where audience members will pose questions of the candidates.