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Presidential Town Hall Debate 2012: Format, Details For Hofstra Event

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The second presidential debate takes place on Tuesday night at Hofstra University in Long Island, beginning at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.

It's the lone debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney that will be using the town hall format, meaning the audience will actively participate in the event.

"Manifesting empathy is key: Romney and Obama will be demonstrating how they relate to ordinary people on national television," Jason Linkins and Elyse Siegel write in their primer for Tuesday's debate.

Janet Brown, executive director of the Commision on Presidential Debates, described tonight's format as follows:

"The format focuses on the 80 people that will be here asking questions of the candidates. They've been chosen as uncommitted voters from Nassau County by the Gallup organization."

After a citizen asks his or her question, candidates will get two minutes each to answer the question, and then if needed, they can go into the topic further. After some controversy, Candy Crowley of CNN will get to ask follow-up questions tonight as moderator, The Washington Post reports.

Instead of standing at a podium or sitting at a table, Obama and Romney are likely to roam around as they speak to the voters directly.

"It's quite different [...] a totally different experience when you have citizens asking you questions," Brown said.

Here's the official description of the format for Tuesday's debate from the Commission of Presidential Debates website:

Second presidential debate (October 16, 2012, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY)

The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which citizens will ask questions of the candidates on foreign and domestic issues. Candidates each will have two minutes to respond, and an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate a discussion. The town meeting participants will be undecided voters selected by the Gallup Organization.

The 2008 presidential town hall debate between John McCain and Barack Obama was held at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn, and moderated my Tom Brokaw of NBC. Watch it in full below:

After tonight, the final presidential debate will be on Monday in Florida, focusing on foreign policy. Take a look back at the first presidential debate in photos:

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