Voter training: Political experts offer a user's guide to the debates

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With the race for the White House tight and partisan sentiment hardening, the presidential debates could play a pivotal role in shifting support from one candidate to another.

For that reason Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are working with their political coaches and opponent stand-ins ahead of the first debate on Oct. 3, which will focus on domestic policy.

But there's no reason that voters shouldn't have a debate coach, too. In fact, several will help Pittsburghers cut through the spin and hyperbole that will infect the upcoming debates.

PNC Financial Services will present a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Town Meeting, "Presidential Debates: A User's Guide," on Thursday, Sept. 27, at 6 p.m. at the Heinz History Center. Four distinguished panelists and moderator David Shribman, executive editor of the Post-Gazette, will offer a primer on how to evaluate the candidates.

On the panel will be Torie Clarke, an ABC political commentator, senior adviser for Comcast and communications expert; Paul G. Kirk Jr., former U.S. senator of Massachusetts and former chairman of the Democratic Party; Thomas D. Rath, senior adviser to the Romney campaign and former attorney general of New Hampshire; and Sander Vanocur, a veteran journalist at NBC and ABC and a questioner at the first Kennedy-Nixon debate.

The event is free and open to the public, but attendees should reserve a seat at www.post-gazette.com/townmeeting or by calling 412-263-3850.

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