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Four thousand registered media people, a university campus in New York state that has already hosted a presidential debate, 80 undecided voters chosen by Gallup and 12 to 15 of their questions to be fielded by US President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney...the stakes can't get higher, with a race that's tighter than ever. Obama's had his schedule cleared for days of intensive debate preparation, and was quoted today as saying he feels fabulous. There is no doubt that he needs to go into this debate swinging... Hours to go now to the 2nd Presidential debate and there's a festive atmosphere here at Hofstra University, with debate watch parties on campus. Undoubtedly the debate will be keenly watched across the country...some faculty members at Hofstra University predict it will draw more eyeballs than the first (with an estimated 67 million viewers, not counting online).
Just three weeks to the election, and it's going to come down to voter turn-out, we're told. Michelle Obama clearly leading the way - tweeting that she's showed her support, by voting, encouraging others to do the same. And while there does seem to be a wave of voter apathy this time compared to 2008, the students I speak to at Hofstra University are incredibly aware of what's at stake nationally. Twenty-one-year old political science student Jesse tells me he and his friends and family are very political and plan to vote and sounds quite clear what's at stake this election.
"What's at stake is how we deal with the national debt - the first thing the president will have to deal with is the fiscal cliff in January. The way the govt deals with it will affect the next few decades," he says, explaining the ramifications of how they deal. "If they levy high taxes on the richest and upper middle class...or a very different vision on cutting entitlement reforms." They'll probably have to do some combination of the two, he concedes but it will affect the next few decades.
Phil, a 21-year-old drama major at Hofstra says, "A lot is at stake, including civil rights stuff in a kind of terrifying way. As a senior who is going to try to live in the world, there's a lot at stake in terms of student debt, cost of living and minimum wage."
"A lot of young people were able to hop on board" with the hope, last time around, he says, as the opposite of the Bush administration and some of the negative changes. "But after four years of obama, the change hasn't been as immediate as maybe it was presented, that's the way campaigns are run, I understand why people are less..." he trails off, adding, "Most of the people I talk to are voting so they can vote against Mitt Romney, not necessarily for Obama."
Hannah, also a drama major says she's seen much of the same, people are voting not because they believe in something, but against something.
When I ask her about the trend (pro-Obama) amongst women, she says: "I feel as a woman there's a certain way I should vote because of some beliefs of parties, that has been taken into account, civil rights, rights of my own body and decision."
Jesse talks of an "intrinsic disappointment for young people" after electing Obama. "There's definitely a large number of young people not going to vote, not engaging in activism last time. Probably what happened, people thought they were electing someone who was fundamentally different, and lo and behold he was a politician! when he got to Washington, that was disappointing to people."
Debate watch parties, people flocking bars to watch --it's going to be a very intense October 16, with all eyes on the President of the US, and the man who wants his job.
More about Amrita Tripathi
Amrita Tripathi is a news anchor with CNN-IBN, and also doubles up as Health and Books Editor. An MA in Philosophy from St Stephen's College, Delhi University, she has also taught a few undergraduate classes at her alma mater, informally! When she is not tracking health issues, Amrita is busy chasing the literary dream. Her debut novel Broken News was published in 2010. Before joining CNN-IBN, Amrita worked with The Indian Express.