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Mitt Romney and Barack Obama The presidential candidates’ first debate will last 90 minutes and focus on issues such as jobs and the economy. (AP Images)

Let the Debates Begin!

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will meet for the first of three debates on Wednesday

By Laura Leigh Davidson | October 1 , 2012

It’s time for the presidential candidates to face off. Debate season starts this Wednesday, kicking off important events in the long campaign to choose the next President of the United States.

President Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate seeking re-election, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger, will meet face-to-face for the first of three debates on October 3 at the University of Denver in Colorado. The debate will be televised across the nation starting at 9 p.m. ET.

The candidates will focus on domestic policy, or issues that are specifically about what is going on in the United States rather than what is happening in other countries.

The debate will follow strict rules. During the 90-minute debate, moderator Jim Lehrer, executive editor of PBS NewsHour, will spend 45 minutes asking the candidates about the economy, and then 15 minutes each on health care, the role of government, and the process of governing this country.

The moderator will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes for his response. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a discussion of the topic.

WINNING OR LOSING VOTERS

Both Obama and Romney have spent weeks preparing for the debates. They have put together arguments that explain what they think about the issues—and studied facts and statistics that prove their points. They have even tried to guess how their opponent might challenge their opinions during the debate so that they could practice their own responses in advance.

Why is this debate so important? Debates can make a big difference as to which candidate voters will choose on Election Day, according to political scientist Bill Benoit.

“One reason that [debates] matter is that they are almost the only message that millions and millions of people see,” Benoit told CNN. “In some states, [candidates] don’t run any ads. The one thing that the most people see is the debates. People learn about the candidates’ issue positions and form or change their views of candidates’ character by watching debates.”

You can tune in on Wednesday to learn more about what each candidate thinks about the issues. The Scholastic News Kids Press Corps will be at all four debates, including the vice-presidential debate on October 11. Scholastic News Kid Reporter Jenna Winocur will be at the first debate on Wednesday night in Denver. Check back later this week to hear from Jenna about what happened and what it was like to watch the candidates face off!

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