Barack Obama and Mitt Romney go head-to-head in their second televised debate tonight - and the president knows it could be critical to his hopes of a second term in the White House.
Mr Obama's lacklustre performance in the first debate two weeks ago has led to him slipping in the opinion polls both nationally and in key battleground states.
Mr Romney has enjoyed a 'bounce' in his popularity from that performance and has the air of a man reinvigorated with three weeks to go until polling day.
The two will go head-to-head on stage at Hofstra University on New York's Long Island for the second of three live prime-time clashes.
This debate will take the form of a 'town hall', with the candidates facing questions from members of the audience, voters selected from the nearby Nassau County.
Experts say the format might hamper Mr Obama's attempts to go on the offensive, after admitting he was "too polite" in the first debate.
Debate coach Brett O'Donnell, who worked with John McCain in 2008 and Mr Romney during this year's primaries, said: "This is the one debate that belongs to the people.
"You can't have this sort of all-out slugfest at a town hall debate."
The Obama camp hopes that addressing voters face-to-face will play on his perceived strength, according to pollsters, as a man who understands the problems of real Americans.
It is clear the debates are having a real-time impact on the election with early voting already taking place in many states.
Those who know the inner workings of the Obama White House say it has led to an increased focus on avoiding the mistakes of the first debate.
Corey Ealons, a former Obama communications official, said: "We know that's not President Barack Obama when he's at his best.
"So if he's awake, aware, present and calls Governor Romney on the facts when he has the chance to, I know he'll have a really good performance."
This debate also gives Mr Romney the chance to overcome a persistent weakness in the campaign: the suspicion among some voters that he's too wealthy to relate to the middle class and the poor.
Some good news for the Obama campaign has come with the release of the latest fundraising figures for the two candidates.
Mr Romney and his allies raised \$170.5m (£106m) in September, short of the record-breaking \$181m (£113m) raised by the Obama camp in the same month.
It is the second successive month that Mr Obama has out-raised Mr Romney after the Republican candidate had enjoyed a financial lead for much of the year.
This election is expected to be the most expensive in history.
The president has also received some unsurprising backing: First Lady Michelle Obama cast an absentee ballot on Monday.
She tweeted: "Hey, @BarackObama, I just dropped my absentee ballot in the mail -- I couldn't wait for Election Day! Love you! --mo."
The president tweeted back: "I'm following @MichelleObama's example and voting early, on October 25. If your state has early voting, join me ... --bo."
The first couple add their initials to tweets when they, rather than campaign workers, have composed them.
:: You can watch the debate live on Sky News and the Sky News website starting at 2am BST on Wednesday, October 17