Will sports fans watch the debate?

Updated
President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, participate in the presidential debate on Tuesday, Oct....
President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, participate in the presidential debate on Tuesday, Oct....
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

As the candidates gear up for their last face-to-face encounter of the 2012 presidential race, the question circulating the water cooler today is, what will you be watching tonight? As NBC Correspondent Luke Russert pointed out on today’s show, the presidential debate is competing with two sporting events bound to attract national attention. The St. Louis Cardinals are battling the San Francisco Giants in a win-or-die game seven, as the winner moves on to the World Series. Meanwhile in football, the Lions face the Bears in an NFC North showdown. That’s a lot for a presidential debate to contend with - plus, this debate focuses solely on foreign policy, a subject where not many may be interested.

Like these high-stake professional sporting events, the presidential race is now a closely matched competition. The latest Real Clear Politics poll average of likely voters has the candidates nearly neck and neck, with Governor Romney’s 47.7 percent leading President Obama’s 46.9 percent. The NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll shows the two tied at 47%, while Gallup’s latest daily tracking poll has Romney up 51 percent to the president’s 45 percent among likely voters.

Hopefully, sports fans who are also undecided voters will tune in to the debate. As we saw during last week’s presidential debate at Hofstra University, both candidates are on the attack. Tonight, however, President Obama may have ‘home field advantage,’ as his foreign policy experience far surpasses that of his rival. Obama has withdrawn troops from Iraq, ending a costly and unpopular war, something Romney has appeared more hesitant to do. Another topic we’ll surely hear about is Libya - despite last week’s live fact-checking by Candy Crowley, Romney is likely to come after the president on how the situation was handled. Also on the agenda: Syria, Iran, and China. Only time will tell how the conversation will go, and how many people will forego sports this evening to see the candidates spar one last time before the concession call is made on November 6.

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Will sports fans watch the debate?

Updated