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Presidential Debates Dates, Details Announced

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will face off three times in October, with the debate topics announced weeks beforehand

President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, his presumptive GOP rival in the 2012 election, will face off for three 90-minute debates running up to the Nov. 6 election, with the first taking place Oct. 3.

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The non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates  announced the formats and dates for the debates Wednesday, laying out the framework for the political face-offs.

Tweaks have been made to the formats of the debates, with larger amounts of time being devoted to specific topics and the debate topics being announced weeks in advance.

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The first debate, which will occur Oct. 3 at the University of Denver in Colorado, will be divided into six segments of approximately 15 minutes, with each segment devoted to a specific topic. The topics, which will be chosen by the moderator, will be announced several weeks before the debate.

The second face-off will take place at Hofstra University at Hempstead, NY, on Oct. 16 in the form of a town meeting, with undecided voters selected from the Gallup Organization asking questions on foreign and domestic topics. The candidates will each have two minutes to respond, with an additional minute allocated for the moderator to facilitate a conversation.

The final show-down occurs on Oct. 22 at Lynn University at Boca Raton, Fla., and will follow the first debate's format, with a focus on foreign policy.

A vice-presidential debate will also take place on Oct. 11 at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.

All debates will begin at 9 p.m. ET. The moderators of the debates will be chosen in August.

This year, the Commission on Presidential Debates is also introducing an internet-based voter education program meant to familiarize citizens with the debate topics and enable them to provide their input to the moderators ahead of the debates.

CPD co-chairmen Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr. and Michael D. McCurry said that the bigger time chunks devoted to topics and advance notice of the debate topics are "designed to promote substantive dialogue before, during and between the debates about the major issues of the day. They will permit citizens and candidates to come prepared for a series of voter education forums that inform and engage the public."