Amid tight security, the Hofstra University campus was in both a celebratory mode and political frenzy as it awaited the arrival Tuesday of President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney for a second presidential debate.
A helicopter was flying overhead Tuesday morning as multiple media outlets filmed groups of students and others, some holding signs and screaming in excitement. At almost every intersection on campus there were blockades with Nassau County police enforcing security measures.
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Hofstra freshmen Montana Marsilio, 18, and her roommate Casey Regan, 17, joined close to 50 students near the Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center from 4:30 to 7:30 a.m. holding "Hofstra Pride" signs to herald the debate.
Just behind the large Hofstra University sign hanging near the student center, groomed donkey and elephant bushes were adorned with sweatshirt cloth, the donkey wearing blue with white stars and the elephant wearing red with white stars.
The matchup between Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Romney is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. at the Hempstead campus. Hofstra said Monday that, of 1,000 people in the audience, about 300 will be students.
Just after 10:30 a.m., Romney arrived at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, according to The Associated Press. Obama greeted supporters shortly after 1:30 p.m. as he arrived at Kennedy Airport, according to AP.
Unlike the other two debates, this one allows Obama and Romney to roam around a platform at the Mack complex as moderator Candy Crowley of CNN taps 10 to 15 undecided Nassau County voters to ask questions about anything from jobs, taxes and deficits to Libya and China.
The Hofstra presidential debate presents an opportunity for Obama to redeem himself and for his challenger Mitt Romney to press his advantage, political analysts say.
The pressure is on Obama after a subdued performance in the first debate, allowing Romney to reset his then-struggling campaign and to win a tie in some polls.
Vice President Joe Biden's aggressive performance -- Republicans say embarrassing for his laughs and constant interruptions -- in the debate with Romney running mate Paul Ryan, stopped that surge. Now it's up to Obama to try to turn things around with three weeks to go, analysts say.
"Obama absolutely can redeem himself," with a strong performance, passion for his views and a push-back against Romney, said David Birdsell, Baruch College public affairs dean, on Monday.
Romney can continue the momentum from the first debate, Birdsell said, if he keeps the focus on "what he is going to do in the next term," not the different positions he has taken.
Obama and Romney will be judged not just on their words, but on how they appear, Goodman said. "People really believe their eyes," he said.
At Hofstra early Tuesday, Devon Whitham was wearing a dollar bill over her mouth to symbolize, she said, how Americans are being drowned out by "big money" during this election. She also held up a bed sheet that said, "Obama & Romney Take a Stand Get $$$ Out 99Rise."
Whitham, 27, of Woodland Hills, Calif., has been hosting a table at Hofstra since Monday to gain support from students for 99Rise, a group whose mission "is to break the stranglehold of Big Money on American politics and reclaim our democracy for the 99%."
"This is the moment for students to get engaged in politics, but there is a $9 billion elephant in the room," Whitham said. "We're concerned with how big money has dominated the agenda for both parties and how the needs of Americans can still be met."
Beginning early Tuesday, security around the campus was tight. At one intersection, Uniondale Avenue and Hempstead Turnpike, 10 Nassau County police cars were seen, along with concrete barricades and sanitation department trucks.
Nassau police are advising motorists to expect traffic delays Tuesday around the Nassau Hub because of the debate. For example, Earl Ovington Boulevard will be closed to all traffic between Hempstead Turnpike and Charles Lindberg Boulevard from 6 a.m. to midnight. And no commercial traffic will be allowed onto Hempstead Turnpike, between Oak Street and Merrick Avenue, from 6 a.m. to midnight. Westbound traffic will be diverted at Merrick Avenue and Hempstead Turnpike while motorists traveling eastbound will be diverted at Oak Street and Hempstead Turnpike, police said. All lanes of Hempstead Turnpike will remain open to passenger vehicles, but motorists should expect delays particularly in the vicinity of university's main entrance and near the Nassau Coliseum, police said. The department is advising motorists to use alternative routes or to avoid the area altogether on Tuesday.
With Candice Ferrette and Olivia Winslow