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Debate preview: candidates to duel over domestic issues

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Mitt Romney will face off against President Barack Obama on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET. (Source: CNN) Mitt Romney will face off against President Barack Obama on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET. (Source: CNN)
Jim Lehrer, host of 'NewsHour' on PBS, will moderate the first Presidential debate. (Source: Larry D. Moore/Wikimedia) Jim Lehrer, host of 'NewsHour' on PBS, will moderate the first Presidential debate. (Source: Larry D. Moore/Wikimedia)
The University of Denver will host the first of the three Presidential debates. (Source: CW221/Wikimedia) The University of Denver will host the first of the three Presidential debates. (Source: CW221/Wikimedia)

(RNN) - On Oct. 3 President Barack Obama goes head-to-head with his Republican opponent Mitt Romney in the first of three presidential debates only 34 days before the election.

The candidates face off at the University of Denver at 9 p.m. ET, where they will field questions about domestic policy issues for 90 minutes.

Jim Lehrer, host of NewsHour on PBS, will moderate the debate, which will be divided into six segments, each beginning with a new question and lasting 15 minutes. Obama and Romney will have two minutes to respond to the initial question. The rest of the segment will be used by the candidate to discuss the question's topic.

Lehrer has been known to shake things up – when he moderated the 2008 Presidential debate at the University of Mississippi, it was supposed to focus on foreign policy, but he allotted significant time to discussing the financial crisis.

The University of Denver is a significant site because Colorado is a crucial swing state with nine electoral votes.

Historically, Colorado has been "deep red"- usually voting Republican. But Democrats have made inroads and Obama's win in the last presidential election suggests Colorado has evolved into a purple state.

Obama received 54 percent of the popular vote in 2008, the most for any Democratic presidential candidate in more than 40 years.

The change in voter attitude may be because of the economic crisis.

"The heart of the problem for Colorado voters is the unwillingness of our leaders and candidate to tell us what it will really cost to fix our economy," University of Denver business professor Buie Seawell said in a statement.

And that unwillingness may be why Colorado's registered voters are shying away from affiliating with a particular party.

The state's registered Democrats and Republicans are divided by a razor-thin margin. According to a survey conducted by the Colorado Secretary of State's office, the state has 3,425,233 registered voters. Of that, 1,081,937 are Democrats and 1,114,012 are Republicans.

But most Colorado voters are unaffiliated.

Crucial national issues surrounding this election hit home for Coloradans.

Energy topics are important because the state uses a diverse group of energy producing resources. Geological surveys have recently uncovered potential natural gas assets, some in densely populated areas.

Colorado also is home to thriving businesses developing wind and solar energy.

More than 20 percent of Colorado's population is Hispanic or Latino, and U.S. immigration reform is a major concern.

The Pew Hispanic Research Center in 2010 estimated the illegal alien population of Colorado to be 180,000, and federal policy regarding their status is a crucial issue in the state.

The next debate will be the vice presidential candidates on Oct. 11 at 9 p.m. ET. Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan will answer questions on both foreign and domestic issues at Centre College in Danville, KY. Martha Raddatz of ABC will be the moderator.

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