WASHINGTON — President Bush and Sen. John Kerry have specific tasks in their second debate tonight at 7 MDT in St. Louis, where they will take questions from citizens in a town-hall style session. Here's what the candidates must do:
George W. Bush
Again reassure wavering voters that the decision to go to war in Iraq was the correct one for the United States' security after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He must do this despite new reports indicating Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction.
Continue to highlight what he says are the risks of a Kerry presidency but on a broader front than he did in their first debate in Miami, which centered on foreign policy. The debate at Washington University in St. Louis will hit both foreign policy and domestic issues, and polls show that Kerry does best among prospective voters on domestic issues.
Address the demeanor and style questions that popped up after his first debate, when the president sometimes frowned during Kerry's remarks, occasionally leaned on the podium and lamented several times how difficult the job of being president was.
John F. Kerry
Highlight fresh doubts about the war in Iraq planted by none other Clearly explain how he's come to criticize the war in Iraq after voting to allow Bush to use force to remove Saddam. That will require parrying fresh Republican claims that Kerry shifted under political pressure from Howard Dean, the chief anti-war voice during the Democratic primaries.
Continue to narrow the stature gap and give viewers reassurance that he is presidential. A strong first debate performance could be undermined if Kerry looks stiff and distant when he steps out from behind the podium.