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Presidential showdown in Denver

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WASHINGTON — As millions of Americans watch, President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney will be chasing opposite goals in their first debate. The key for Obama is to sit on his narrow lead without mishap, while Romney’s challenge is to shake up the race and connect with voters. And while debates are seldom determinative, they can alter the direction or pause the momentum of a presidential contest. Five weeks before the election, the public’s attention is becoming more focused, opinions are gelling and in some states votes are already being cast.

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