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Expect Obama to counter that more than 4.6 million jobs have been created since he took office after recession-driven job losses approaching 800,000 a month under Bush. In his bid to boost the middle class, the president will argue that he’s reduced the typical family’s federal tax burden by $3,600. He also will talk about shared responsibility and a role for government.

“As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government,” Obama said in his convention speech.

Both will be pressed for specifics on their job creation claims. Romney promises 12 million new jobs; Obama the creation of 1 million manufacturing jobs. Neither has said how he would make those jobs happen.

The candidates are diametrically apart on health care, Medicare, gay marriage, immigration and abortion rights _ all potential debate issues.

The second debate on Oct. 16 will cover domestic and foreign policy with questions from a group of undecided voters selected by the Gallup Organization. This format that could elicit the unusual and the memorable.

It was at a 1992 town hall debate involving President George H.W. Bush, Democrat Bill Clinton and independent Ross Perot in which the Republican was caught looking at this watch. His reaction came as an audience member was talking about how much the deep recession had personally affected him. Bush, who lost that election, later said that he was thinking: “Only 10 more minutes of this crap.”

The final debate Oct. 22 focuses on foreign policy, an area in which Obama has received high marks from Americans in opinion polls. The president will offer a spirited defense of his aggressive record in pursuing al-Qaida, the killing of Osama bin Laden and the collapse of Moammar Gadhafi’s government in Libya.

As for his rival, Obama said in his convention speech that Romney and Ryan are neophytes. “In a world of new threats and new challenges, you can choose leadership that has been tested and proven,” the president insisted in arguing for his candidacy.

Obama said Romney and Ryan “are new to foreign policy, but from all that we’ve seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly.”

Romney has argued that Obama has “thrown Israel under a bus” and has failed to show resolve in challenging Iran and its suspected nuclear weapons program. He likely will talk about his close friendship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as he did in a speech to American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in March.

“In a Romney administration, there will be no gap between our nations or between our leaders,” Romney told the gathering.

Expect Romney to complain about Obama cuts in projected military spending even though congressional Republicans, including his running mate Ryan, voted for them last year.