Expectations high for Louisiana backers of Obama, Romney - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Expectations high for Louisiana backers of Obama, Romney

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President Obama and Mitt Romney on the campaign trail (File/AP) President Obama and Mitt Romney on the campaign trail (File/AP)

New Orleans, La. — Louisiana voters will join voters nationwide in watching the much-anticipated first presidential debate.

President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney face off in Denver Wednesday night.  In recent months, both Obama and Romney have been crisscrossing the country, focusing on battleground states crucial to winning the White House next month.

"I think the more people get to know Governor Romney, the more they will like him," said Scott Sewell, Romney's Louisiana campaign chairman.

"This is critical and I'm hoping that it's not just sound bites and there is real substance," said Jay H. Banks, a member of the Louisiana Democratic State Central Committee.

Obama and Romney are fighting it out in a close race which shows no sign of relenting.

"It's tight but steady, and so it's particularly nerve-wracking for President Obama because his lead, [though] consistent, is small and this gives Mitt Romney, of course, an opportunity," said Thomas Langston, a Tulane University political scientist with expertise in presidential politics.

Both candidates have said this election is about two different political ideologies. But both have been careful to water down debate expectations.

"Governor Romney has been practicing for debates longer than the president has been the president," said Banks.

Still, Banks expects Obama to perform well.  "I think that he will really bring it, and I think that he's going to bring details. I think that's what the public is in need of," stated Banks.

Sewell said Romney is a skilled debater and will be well prepared.  "This is a chance for most people to get beyond what they're hearing from the news, and see the man himself and listen to his own words.  And I think he wins just for that," stated Sewell.

Langston said Romney will get a boost in some voters' minds, simply because he is occupying the same stage with the leader of the free world.

Both candidates have been holed up for days leading up to the debate, working to smooth rough edges.

"Barack Obama is a professor, and it often does seem like he's giving you a lecture… When you're playing to a national audience in a debate you need to say what you're going to say, and stop," said Langston.

And Langston offered advice on what Romney should work to convey.  "He's going to have to not only look presidential and avoid mistakes, but reassure people that he's the sort of man that they would like to be in a relationship with," Langston stated.

He said Romney must also convince skeptical voters that he would be the president of the entire nation, given the controversy over Romney's "47 percent" comment before GOP supporters.  "That is Romney's biggest challenge," continued Langston.

This is but one of three presidential debates.  Debate performances aside, it is still expected that, come election night, Louisiana will be one of the states Mitt Romney will have in his "win" column.

"This is an electorate that has pretty much made up its mind. We're not a swing state," said Langston.

A lot of the focus by the candidates has been on states where the race is still too close to put in either Obama's column or Romney's.

270 electoral votes are needed to win the White House.  Louisiana has just eight electoral votes.

"All he has to do is point out the facts and keep on message.  I mean, the economy is terrible, it's not getting better," said Sewell.

"The first election was about hope.  This one is about reality, and the reality of it is if you can't afford Mitt Romney's lifestyle, you can't afford his politics," said Banks.

Langston said the candidates should also control their mannerisms.

"Al Gore famously sighed his way through a debate with George W. Bush, and somebody may have been able to get away with sighing at George W. Bush but not Al Gore, because people already were wondering, is Al Gore a little too condescending?" said Langston.

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