Hofstra debate will showcase listening skills

Barack Obama Mitt Romney
Barack Obama Mitt Romney Generic White House election campaign politics 2012 vote debate

(CBS News) HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. - President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney are at Hofstra University on Long Island Tuesday night for the second of three debates.

The candidates will take questions from uncommitted voters in a town hall format.

Can the president bounce back from what he admits was a "bad night" at the first debate -- a night that turned out to be a game changer? Since then, the race has gone from dead even to a slight but steady lead for Gov. Romney, though within the margin of error.

But the latest Gallup poll out earlier Tuesday shows the former governor has opened a four-point lead over the president, 50 percent to 46 percent. That is outside the margin of error -- a small, but genuine lead for Gov. Romney

In the toss up states that are likely to tip the balance on election night, Gov. Romney has deeply cut into one of the president's major strengths -- favor among women.

Gov. Romney still trails President Obama among woman, but now just by a single point. In the past, he had been trailing by double digits.

CBS News political correspondent Jan Crawford explains that single demographic is one reason why Gov. Romney has surged in the polls in general.

The latest Politico-George Washington University poll shows the president is winning among single women 70 to 27 percent; but Romney is ahead with married women 52 to 46 percent -- and there are more than twice as many married women voters as single women.

Tuesday night's debate is an opportunity for Gov. Romney to continue reaching out to those female voters. His advisers tell CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes that he will keep his message focused on the economy, but will point out the real "war on women" is the president's economic policies.

If this debate isn't a must-win for the president, it's certainly a must-not-lose. Campaign officials tell CBS News that President Obama will be better prepared this time around. The president spent the past three days doing debate prep in Virginia with his team for 12 hours a day. Aides warn, however, not to expect an overly aggressive President Obama, even though that's what the Romney campaign has been predicting -- it's not his style, they say.

The town hall format will also set a different tone from the first debate. Audience members get to ask the questions, so the candidates can't just focus on scoring points against each other -- they also need to establish a bond with those questioners.

Both candidates will also need to take advantage of this setting to show that they are good listeners. CBS News political director John Dickerson notes that President Obama worked for three years as a community organizer, listening to people; Gov. Romney, as a bishop in the Mormon Church, offered advice and guidance to people on their marriages and addictions. If they can use that experience to show that they are good listeners, then they can react and create a political moment that works out well for them.