Fight night: Obama and Romney go head-to-head in first presidential debate

The first presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney begins at 2am tomorrow, UK time. Photo: Reuters

Fight night is here. The first presidential debate hits the airwaves in the early hours of tomorrow morning, and the American voting public has a free ringside seat.

But it's another television spectacle that is making the TV pundits and politicos chatter this morning. And it's all about race.

A tape of a speech made by then Senator Obama in 2007 in front of an audience largely made up of African Americans has been released by the conservative website the "Daily Caller".

They claim that it's incendiary and shows that Obama is fighting a class war and has a fundamental racial bias. Obama talks on the tape about the aftermath of hurricane Katrina and says that the people of that largely black city were treated unfairly by the government, when compared with other cities that suffered similar incidents.

The tape also brings up again the relationship between the president and his former pastor Jeremiah Wright, who Obama distanced himself from in 2008 when the Chicago churchman was filmed making racist remarks.

It will overshadow the morning news cycle and could make for an uncomfortable day for the Democratic Party with renewed questions from the Right over the president's stance on issues of class and race.

But with final preparation time now short the candidates will both converge on the Rocky Mountain State, heading to the University of Denver for the showdown, which begins at 2am tomorrow, UK time.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney will go head-to-head with Barack Obama in the first debate. Credit: Reuters

Challenger Mitt Romney is already in Denver, and will be joined by President Obama this evening. Both men took time yesterday to be seen by the cameras, Romney ordering food at a Mexican restaurant whilst the president visited the Hoover Dam, a symbol of American industrial power and expertise.

The president's arrival will receive live coverage on the US cable news networks, one of the advantages of being the incumbent. Romney will have to work harder but you may see a final appearance before the confrontation begins.

The debaters will face questions on domestic policy focussing for the most part on the economy, a potentially strong suit for Romney. The insertion of the the "explosive" tape from 2007 is sure to be mentioned by moderator Jim Lehrer, and has potential pitfalls on both sides.

Romney's not a natural attack dog and has to come across as presidential, a tricky task in the situation given the subject matter.

For Obama, he could point to a speech he made in Philadelphia on his way to winning the 2008 election in which he disavowed Reverand Wright, a speech that was widely seen as putting an end to questions over his views on race.

Far from giving the president a headache, the tape might just fire up the president's base support.

By breakfast time tomorrow this race could have taken a new and decisive turn, but don't be surprised if the decision in this political blood sport is on points, with no clear winner, and both men left standing to fight another day in a race that seems to be once again tightening.