- Associated Press - Saturday, October 11, 2014

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and Democrat Mark Schauer meet Sunday night in Detroit for their only scheduled debate in what is a competitive race. What to watch for as the gubernatorial candidates appear side by side at a one-hour town hall forum about three weeks before the Nov. 4 election:

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COMFORT LEVEL

Both men should be comfortable with the format, where an audience of undecided voters will ask questions with the potential for follow-up from Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News editorial page editors knowledgeable about public policy. Snyder has hosted town halls in his official capacity as governor and recently did three campaign-run town halls before the debate. Schauer, who served in Congress in 2009-10, had some contentious town hall events on Democrats’ federal health care legislation before and after it was enacted. Snyder participated in some debates in his 2010 campaign, as did Schauer in past runs for the U.S. House.

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HOT TOPICS

Look for Schauer to be the aggressor and criticize a tax rewrite that slashed business taxes and raised them on individuals, including retirees with pension income. Snyder defends the move as making the tax code fairer and simpler. Other hot topics likely will include the extent to which Snyder cut education funding in his first year of office and a 2012 right-to-work law that made it voluntary for unionized workers to pay fees. Snyder calls the claim that he cut more than $1 billion in education spending a “lie.” But Schauer is not backing away. Expect Snyder to trumpet job creation and other economic gains under his watch, with Schauer countering that any recovery has been slow and come on the backs of middle-class workers.

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UNDECIDED VOTERS

The audience at Wayne State University will include undecided voters chosen by the Free Press and News’ independent pollsters. Recent polls still showed 10 percent to nearly 15 percent of Michigan’s likely voters were undecided or refused to answer their preferred candidate in the governor’s race. So the debate is an opportunity for both candidates to try to win over voters. It could be especially crucial for Schauer, who 20 percent of respondents in one recent poll had never heard of. Both men will try to get their points across without communicating in a way that turns off potential supporters.

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EXPOSURE

The debate is at 6 p.m. on a Sunday night, not exactly prime time. The host, Detroit Public TV, will broadcast it live and make the feed available to every media outlet in the state. TV stations planning to air the debate live include WXYZ (ABC) and WDIV (NBC) in Detroit; WNEM (CBS) in the Flint, Saginaw and Bay City markets; WOTV (ABC) in Battle Creek; and WMNN in Cadillac. Various public radio and TV stations will broadcast it live or later. A livestream also will be available on numerous news websites. You can watch an archived webcast of the debate at www.mivote.org starting late Sunday night through Election Day.

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Follow David Eggert on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00

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