Allahpundit argues that the odds are stacked against the president:
Obama’s biggest problem … may not be Romney but the debate’s format, which couldn’t be more difficult for an incumbent mounting a comeback…. Obama must figure out how to defend his record before the crowd, focusing most of his attention on his individual questioners, while at the same time attacking Romney—and all without overdoing the negativism that typically doesn’t play well in such formats. Pulling that off may be the only way the president can prove to the millions of Americans watching on TV that he can do what he failed to accomplish last week in Denver: effectively counter the insurgent across from him on the stage.
Chait says the format means "opportunities to expose the omissions and outright falsehoods in Romney’s repositioning will be vastly more limited than they were in the first debate, and the risks of attacking them much greater":
Some aspects of the performance clearly lie within Obama’s control. He can speak more crisply. He can resist his natural temptation to work within his opponent’s intellectual frame, and take up Joe Biden’s successful tactic of working from his own premises. But if he wants to tear into Romney’s elaborate rhetorical façade, he is putting himself at the mercy of a random and unpredictable dynamic.
Bob Wright worries that the president will be too negative:
Obama is headed into the second debate getting what strikes me as some pretty bad advice. A headline on the homepage of Monday's Washington Post read, "At second debate, pressures's on Obama to show some fight." And the Obama campaign has promised that, yes, this time the president will be "aggressive" and "more energetic." But I think following this game plan very literally could be a mistake.
Dismissing concerns about Obama's being too aggressive, John Cassidy focuses instead on the absence of a positive message from the Obama campaign:
If the latest survey from the Pew Research Center is to be believed, [Romney] is now narrowly behind Obama on the question of who will work with the other party, tied with him on who has the best leadership abilities, and beating him on the question of who is putting forward new ideas. To counter these impressions and win back some of the centrist voters who are now flirting with Romney, Obama must somehow project something more positive. Part of this—an important part—has to do with his demeanor and body language. In choosing a President, Americans want somebody who appears eager for the job and confident that he can handle it.
Ambers gives advice to both candidates. What Romney needs to do:
[H]e can't be the Romney who showed up and dominated debate number one. Then, he was the happy, confident warrior, easily parlaying questions into talking points and getting back to his core theme, using anecdotes from people he met on the campaign trail. This time, the anecdotes will be provided to him, and people who ask questions will want to hear them answered specifically. Romney HAS to be looser and more conversational, and he cannot "answer the subject," as he did so well in Denver.
(Photo: Members of the production crew ready final preparations for the second presidential debate between U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney on October 16, 2012 in Hempstead, New York. The second presidential debate, a town-hall format with questions from the audience, will be held this evening at Hofstra University. By Win McNamee/Getty Images)