President Barack Obama was looking to rebound in a White House debate rematch Tuesday, promising a more aggressive charge against rival Mitt Romney to stop the Republican's gains since their first face-off two weeks ago.
Obama and Romney will answer questions on domestic and foreign policy from so-called "uncommitted" Long Island voters in a 90-minute "town hall" style faceoff at Hofstra University, which has spent about $3 million in debate planning, preparations and enhanced security measures.
Three hundred Hofstra students won tickets to the debate through a lottery. More than 6,500 had submitted their names in hopes of getting a coveted seat to the showdown.
"I guess I just got lucky," said Jessica Aviles, a Hofstra student who said she couldn't believe she won a spot.
Students attending the debate lined up hours early Tuesday amid tight security at the venue.
Classes were canceled earlier in the day so students could attend university-organized debate events as the entire Hofstra campus buzzed with anticipation over the evening's event.
The stakes could not be higher for the incumbent and challenger locked in a dead heat in polls nationally and some key states three weeks before Election Day. Many Americans are already casting ballots in early voting, giving the pair little chance to recover from any missteps during the 90-minute debate.
"I feel fabulous," Obama told reporters on his way into a meeting with top aides that ended three days of intensive "debate camp" to prepare. The pressure was especially high on Obama after even he admitted he lost the first debate.
Obama spent about 20 minutes inside Hofstra's basketball arena to get familiar with the town hall-style setting that will feature questions about domestic and foreign policy from an audience of voters uncommitted to either candidate. Romney arrived an hour later for his own walk-through.
The town hall-style format makes it especially tricky for Obama to strike the right balance in coming on strong against Romney without turning off the audience — and tens of millions of television viewers — by going too negative. Obama had said his first performance was "too polite."
"I think it's fair to say that we will see a little more activity at the next one," he told radio host Tom Joyner last week.
Obama's campaign, seeking to improve some of the optics that reinforced his poor performance, planned to send several elected Democratic officials to the "spin room" to speak with reporters immediately after the debate.
The campaign only had a handful of Obama advisers in the room after the first debate. Because those same advisers also had to meet with the president after the event, they showed up noticeably later than the Republican officials promoting Romney.
Their late arrival reinforced the notion of a campaign struggling to comprehend the president's lackluster performance.
Tuesday's debate audience of uncommitted voters was selected by the Gallup Organization. Moderator Candy Crowley of CNN will choose who gets to speak after reviewing proposed questions to avoid repeats.
The final debate of the campaign will be Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., focusing on foreign policy.