As the United States gears for a the climax of a long, often uninspired presidential elections campaign, one debate is set to pit two of the country's most outspoken, and funny, political minds – Fox New's Bill O'Reilly and "fake-news" man Jon Stewart.
Announced on Monday, the live internet debate between the anchors of Fox's The O'Reilly Factor and Comedy Central's The Daily Show is due to take place Oct. 6, coinciding with the three planned "real" presidential debates between U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
Romney and Obama are due to meet for three debates: a domestic policy debate in Denver on Oct. 3; a town hall-style debate in Hempstead, N.Y., on Oct. 16, and a foreign policy debate in Boca Raton, Fla., on Oct. 22.
Vice President Joe Biden and GOP running mate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin will meet for one debate in Danville, Ky., on Oct. 11 that will touch on both domestic and foreign policy issues.
Dubbed "The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium," a take on the classic 1974 boxing match between George Forman and Muhammad Ali nicknamed "Rumble in the Jungle," O'Reilly and Stewart, who have squared off several times before while hosting each other on their respective shows, could provide the spark from an close yet otherwise monotonous elections' season.
The debate will be recorded in Washington D.C.'s George Washington University, and will be relayed via internet in a pay-per-view event.
Later Monday, remarking on the upcoming series of debates between Obama and Romney, the U.S. president's aides were readily setting expectations — and not surprisingly, they want to keep them low for Obama while raising the stakes for Romney.
“While Mitt Romney has done 20 debates in the last year, he has not done one in four years, so there certainly is a challenge in that regard,” Jennifer Psaki, Obama’s campaign spokeswoman, said of the president on Monday.
With Obama edging slightly ahead of Romney in public polling seven weeks from Election Day, the three October debates could be one of the Republicans’ best opportunities to break through with voters. But the high-profile events are just as crucial for Obama, who was an uneven debater during the 2008 Democratic primaries.
In that way, some of the Obama campaign’s tactical lowering of expectations is also rooted in the truth. Aides say the structured — and time-limited — nature of the debates isn’t a natural fit for Obama, who often is long-winded when answering questions during news conferences or town hall-style meetings.
Obama’s campaign purposely has been vague about how he is getting ready for the debates and aides refused to discuss details of his preparations publicly.
But those preparations are well under way. Obama has held multiple practice sessions, some with Massachusetts Democrat Sen. John Kerry, who is playing the role of Romney. One of the president’s practice spots is at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters a short drive from the White House.
Romney, on the other hand, has not hidden that he’s been in the midst of intense debate preparation since early September. That’s when aides announced that the GOP nominee would spend much of the week of the Democratic National Convention off the campaign trail huddling with advisers in private debate sessions.
Romney got started early in part to help him get accustomed to the one-on-one format he’ll face next month. Most of his numerous debates during the GOP primary featured several other candidates.
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