The typical undecided voter at this point, Lake said, is a white mother without a college education between the ages of 44 and 55 who works outside the home and is worried about the economy and the impact on her family.
“She's the swing voter right now” and the person to whom both candidates should be aiming their debate messages, Lake said. That swing voter doesn't think the president is doing a good job right now, Lake said.
The electorate has never gone into the presidential debates as polarized as it is now, Lake said, raising the question of how much difference the debates can make.
Goeas said, “There are very few times the debates have a gotcha moment or a decisive event that occurs.”
Romney will be the beneficiary if he can go toe-to-toe with the president and convince people he could be a strong leader, Goeas said.
Romney may get an advantage from the fact that a strong majority of voters now believe Obama will win reelection, Goeas said.
“The last thing you want with your voters is them thinking you're going to win overwhelmingly because then it makes it too easy for them to have excuses not to vote … The ideal is to have your voters believing that you can win but it's close and it's going to be a loss if in fact they don't turn out,” Goeas said.