Watching the Denver Presidential Debate?

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Denver is buzzing ... not. Actually there are a few students and faculty at the University of Denver who seem to be aware that the president of the United States and a former governor who really wants that title (and the headaches) are going to converge here -- with thousands and thousands of outsiders, mostly media wanting to report the first moment that one of them looks at his watch during their encounter.

Most pollsters put Obama ahead nationally -- but Rush Limbaugh says that it's a widespread pollster conspiracy and that actually Obama and Romney are in a dead heat. I'm fine to go with Limbaugh this round (!). It feels like a close race to me even if Romney has failed to leverage any of Obama's few missteps and has made so many of his own mistakes it's hard to keep count. Bottom line is that lots of Americans are unhappy -- and there are enough undecideds to flip this thing. I do think Obama will win if the race were held tomorrow -- but what if another bin Laden video turns up? (Kidding ... just nervous about other Middle East types who draw red lines with markers at UN General Assembly sessions.)

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I want the debates to matter -- and thus think that all Americans who are pondering the fate of the nation should spend time watching and wrestling with the proposals they hear from our future or given-one-more-chance leader. I will be live-blogging the debates for both The Atlantic and The Washington Note -- and will be doing so along with Professor Jennifer Hopper's American Presidency class students -- some Dems, some GOPers, sitting in the same room, looking at the same screen -- at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland.

Washington College, by the way, was launched in 1782 and actually had George Washington on its Board of Visitors when founded. Very cool place. Perhaps Washington, a Virginian, helping to establish a school in the rival state of Maryland may have been one of the first truly American acts of that time, at least in education. I wonder if Mitt Romney or Obama will reference the nation's founding fathers or Washington. What would George have done on drones? health care? corn crop subsidies? 

I do know that Hopper is going to spice up her "debate watch" much like CNN is going to do. 

First on CNN, I have learned through the grapevine that the network will have a split screen of both candidates the entire time of the debate. CNN will run a clock showing how much speaking time each candidate actually gets -- and there will be an ongoing graph at the bottom of the screen showing the 'sentiment' of a group of genuinely undecided voters who will be watching the debate in Sony PlayStation mode. 

Hopper has her own deal and sent this to a few special guests she has invited to join her debate-excited students:

We will have the opportunity to engage with the debate in an interactive way -- a group of political scientists have developed an app that will allow students to react to what's happening in real time, by indicating if they agree or disagree with what the candidates are saying, and whether they think candidates are trying to "spin" an issue or "dodge" a question.

These researchers will then make the aggregate data from campuses across the country available to us, so we can see what you and your peers find to be the most (and least) effective moments of the debate. If you are interested in using the app during the debate, all you need to do is bring your smartphone, laptop, or internet-connected tablet to our debate viewing on Wednesday. [Clemons Note:  I am bringing my smartphone -- but not upgraded to OS6]

I have attached here an email with more information for students -- note that participation is entirely voluntary and that your personal information and debate reactions will not be made public, they will merely be added to the overall summary statistics that the researchers compile.

Sounds fun.  Only bad part is that I'm in Denver the night before the debates and am planning to team up with National Journal and CNN's Ron Brownstein moderating a pre-debate event in the morning (join us if you are free -- and here).  I'll be interviewing Colorado Governor and beer and oil & gas expert John Hickenlooper at 10 a.m. central time (watch live here). And then am flying, training and driving to get to the Eastern Shore of Maryland tomorrow night to do this promised live blogging.

Some other tidbits courtesy of MSNBC's Chuck Todd (@ChuckTodd) who posted this stuff on twitter:

57 minutes ago

As of 5pm ET, the two campaigns and the debate commission had yet to sign the memo of understanding on the rules for tmro night.

47 minutes ago

BTW, here are the loose rules: each candidate will get 2 mins to answer the initial question at the start of each pod, then open season

46 minutes ago

After the initial limit of 2 mins for opening answer, up to moderator to decide when a candidate's gone on too long. BTW, there are 6 pods

Well, then...he got distracted and retweeted:

45 minutes ago
Rt ": Think I'll drop into Gotham and try some new stuff tonight ."

Hope someone live blogs Seinfeld. Thanks to Politico for finding a great pairing of Reuters pics of Obama and Romney. More tomorrow. 

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Steve Clemons is Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and editor of Atlantic Live. He writes frequently about politics and foreign affairs. More

Clemons is a senior fellow and the founder of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, a centrist think tank in Washington, D.C., where he previously served as executive vice president. He writes and speaks frequently about the D.C. political scene, foreign policy, and national security issues, as well as domestic and global economic-policy challenges.

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