Debate prep focuses on style over substance

US President Barack Obama (L) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney finish their debate at the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado, October 3, 2012. After hundreds of campaign stops, $500 million in mostly negative ads and countless tit-for-tat attacks, Obama and Romney go head-to-head in their debut debate.

As they prepare to meet for the second presidential debate, President Obama and Mitt Romney are focusing on adjusting their debate style over the substance of their remarks. After a languid performance in the first debate, Mr. Obama promises to be more aggressive and show more passion this time around. Romney, meanwhile, intends to build on the progress he made in the first debate by conveying authenticity.

While style typically has at least some impact in the outcome of presidential debates, it could be more critical in this one, which takes place Tuesday night at Hofstra University in New York. The town hall-like format of the debate -- in which undecided voters chosen by Gallup will ask their own questions -- allows the candidates to engage directly with voters on both domestic and foreign policy issues.

Style could be a bigger challenge for Mr. Obama, who appeared listless in the first debate on Oct. 3. The president buckled down this weekend for three days of debate preparation in Williamsburg, Virginia, where he faced fewer distractions and engaged in less campaigning than he did ahead of the first debate. When reporters over the weekend asked him how the preparation was going, he said, "It's going great!" His response was markedly different from two weeks ago when he told a supporter that debate preparation was "a drag."

Obama campaign spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters that voters watching this week's debate "should expect to see a much more energized President Obama making a passionate case for why he is a better choice for the middle class."

Psaki said the president will focus on Romney's plans for changing Medicare, his views on women's reproductive rights and Romney's tax cut plan.

Obama campaign senior strategist David Axelrod added on Fox News Sunday, "You know, Paul Ryan was on your show a couple of weeks ago and could not answer how Governor Romney would pay for his $5 trillion tax plan and had all the time after your show to prepare for the debate. And in 90 minutes, he still couldn't explain it. So, we're going to give Governor Romney another chance on Tuesday to try and square this impossible circle."

Romney, meanwhile, is preparing for the debate by working on stagecraft and body language, according to Politico.