Most of us already know who we want our next president to be. Polls show that only about 2 or 3 percent of voters are still undecided whether they'll vote for Democratic incumbent Barack Obama or Republican challenger Mitt Romney on Nov. 6.
So, Wednesday night in Denver, during the first of three presidential debates, those undecideds are whom Obama and Romney will be trying hardest to convince.
A big television audience is expected, so even many of those who already know whom they'll vote for will be paying close attention to what the candidates say.
But local experts say past debates have shown that it's not always what the candidates say, but how they say it. And how they look while saying it. And what they're doing while the opponent is saying his piece.
Here are some tips from local experts on how to determine who wins that first debate:
Does it Matter?
When the candidates square off at the University of Denver, each will be aiming to create momentum for his campaign. But do televised debates really have the power to sway voters and launch a campaign on the path to victory?
According to one election expert, probably not.
"We in the media, and I include myself in that, greatly dramatize the effect of these debates," said Dr. G. Terry Madonna, a political analyst and pollster affiliated with Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.
Despite all the fuss the media and political talking heads make over debates, Madonna said, they rarely do much to sway voters.
"It's just not accurate to say that these have been transformative moments," he said of past debates.
Of course, there are always exceptions. Madonna said two debates in the modern age did change the trajectory of elections.
The first, he said, was during the 1960 election between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon. That debate, which was viewed by about 60 percent of the people in the United States watching television that night, is widely viewed as the spark that led Kennedy to victory.
The other, Madonna said, was during the 1980 election between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. Reagan was able to shed his negative image -- he had been portrayed as wanting to end Social Security and bomb the Soviet Union -- and ended up looking rather amiable, Madonna said.
But those cases are rarities, he said.
These days, he said, fewer people watch the debates -- only about half the number that watch the Super Bowl. And those who do watch tend to already have their minds set on a candidate.
"This year in particular, there's a small pool of undecided voters," Madonna said.
That means Wednesday night is pretty unlikely to be an earth-shattering, election-altering evening.
"The myth is that they do," Madonna said of debates changing elections. "The fact is, they rarely do."
Body Language a Factor
Body language in a presidential debate may be more telling than the candidates' overall style and what they actually say, according to those who study body language.
Dr. Jennifer Schlegel, an assistant professor of anthropology at Kutztown University, said viewers should be aware that both positive and negative spins can be placed on any body movement, depending on the one doing the perceiving.
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