President Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney get a chance to reintroduce themselves at Wednesday's debate. Here's what they need to do:


1Just win, baby! "Since Gov. Romney is behind in most of the national and [battleground] state polls, he's under considerably more pressure to perform well in the debates," said Aaron Kall, director of debate at the University of Michigan. But if voters view Romney as a clear winner, it could move public opinion in a hurry.

2Sound presidential. The 1980 debates gave Ronald Reagan a chance to sound more presidential than President Jimmy Carter. Now Romney has a similar opportunity.

3The real "Etch-A-Sketch" moment. The public has an impression of Romney, and its more negative than positive. The debate gives him a chance to reshape his image. The debates are {his last hope to press the reset button and start fresh," said Hofstra University political analyst Lawrence Levy.

4Specifics. In the general election, Romney has avoided policy specifics. Providing them now, said Gabriel Sanchez, a University of New Mexico political scientist, "has the potential to galvanize independent voters."

5No distractions. No $10,000 bets. No invading presidential airspace. No talk of Harvard law school reunions. "Don't give the other side freebies," said Vanderbilt political scientist Efren Perez.


1Avoid a catastrophic mistake. As Rick Perry learned, you're always one "oops" moment away from a serious reversal of political fortune. Rice University political scientist Paul Brace has this simple advice to Obama: "Don't screw up."

2Focus on the future. Avoid the blame game. Americans don't want to hear the candidates debate who is responsible for getting us into the worst economic mess since the Great Depression. They want to know specifically what each candidate will do to make their lives better, said Hofstra's Levy.

3Be nice. One of Obama's big advantages is voters like him more. He needs to remain genial. Obama's temper caused his worst debate moment in 2008, when he dismissively told Hillary Clinton that "you're likable enough." Levy warns Obama not to take the bait if Romney goes on the attack.

4Don't sound like a professor. The former constitutional law professor needs to simplify his explanations. "The president tends to get a bit explain-y," said Democratic consultant Harold Cook. "That works if you're Bill Clinton, but doesn't tend to work for any other living human being."

5Reach out to disaffected 2008 supporters. Romney's best chance to beat Obama is to win the votes of the small but significant group of disappointed 2008 Obama voters. The debate gives the president an opportunity to win them back. "Play up the fact that people already think you're the guy who is more in tune with their concerns," said Vanderbilt's Perez.