U.S. President Barack Obama smiles as he greets onlookers upon arriving at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport in Williamsburg, Virginia, October 13, 2012.
U.S. President Barack Obama smiles as he greets onlookers upon arriving at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport in Williamsburg, Virginia, October 13, 2012.

WHITE HOUSE - Both President Barack Obama and his opponent, Mitt Romney, are preparing for the second of the three debates they will have before the November 6 election. The president needs a strong performance in the next debate to slow Romney’s surge in the polls.

The second presidential debate is set for Tuesday, October 16, three weeks before the election, at Hofstra University near New York City.

Both candidates spent much of Saturday preparing for the forum, but their eyes were also on the state of Ohio, where many experts believe the election could be decided.

President Obama devoted his weekly radio and Internet address to his 2009 decision to bail out the failing U.S. auto industry, which accounts for a large share of manufacturing jobs in Ohio.  

“But we refused to throw in the towel and do nothing.  We refused to let Detroit go bankrupt.  I bet on American workers and American ingenuity, and three years later, that bet is paying off in a big way," he said.

The president reminded voters that America’s auto industry has largely recovered from its earlier problems.

“Today, auto sales are the highest they have been in more than four years.  GM is back.  Ford and Chrysler are growing again.  Together, our auto industry has created nearly a quarter of a million new jobs right here in America," he said.

The president’s wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, is also scheduled to campaign in Ohio on Monday.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney holds
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney holds a baby up in the air after a campaign rally at the Golden Lamb in Lebanon, Ohio October 13, 2012.

Governor Romney has spent four days in Ohio in the past week.  On Saturday, he told a crowd at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth that the debates have given him a chance to question Obama on his policies.

“Like why it was, with 23 million Americans out of work, struggling to find a good job, that he spent his first two years fighting for Obamacare, which made it harder to get jobs," he said.

Romney said he is confident that he can win. “And the only answer he had a few weeks ago was this.  He said, ‘You know, you cannot change Washington from the inside.  You can only change it from the outside.’  We are going to give him that chance on November 6," he said.

Romney’s vice presidential running mate, Paul Ryan, was also in Ohio Saturday, speaking in Youngstown.  Many analysts believe Ryan performed well in Thursday’s debate with Vice President Joe Biden.

Before campaigning Saturday, Governor Romney spent four hours in a hotel in the state capital, Columbus, practicing for next Tuesday’s debate.  He was joined by his debate training partner, Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman, and several top advisers.

Obama left Saturday for three days of debate preparation in the historic town of Williamsburg, Virginia.  He was also joined by top advisers, and by his training partner, Democratic Senator John Kerry.

Public opinion surveys indicate that most Americans believe Romney was the clear winner of the first debate, on October 11. Obama was criticized afterward for appearing sluggish and for not answering all of his opponent’s attacks.

Since then, Romney has erased much if not all of the president’s lead in the polls, both nationwide and in the swing states.

The second debate will have a town hall format, in which audience members ask questions of both candidates.  Questions will concern both foreign and domestic policy.