President Obama and Mitt Romney will square off in their second debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, Long Island.

This is Hofstra’s second time hosting a presidential debate in four years. It costs the school about $4.5 million to put on the event – the same it spent annually on the football team it eliminated in 2009 – but generates an estimated seven times that in exposure/free advertising.

Tonight’s debate has a “town hall” format, and CNN’s Candy Crowley is the moderator.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has skipped many of Obama’s NYC fund-raisers and is speculated to have designs on the White House himself, is scheduled to attend the debate at 9 p.m.

According to an email sent out by the Obama campaign this morning, the president’s post-debate spin team will include two New York Democrats – Sen. Chuck Schumer (probably to tackle fiscal/deficit issues) and Rep. Nydia Velazquez (no doubt being deployed to attack Romney on immigration). Cuomo’s name was not on the list.

There will be a lot of activity outside the debate as supporters of both candidates jockey for position with members of the media and protestors. For example:

More than 200 AIDS activists, many dressed in orange prison jumpsuits, plan to be on hand to highlight the “discriminatory practice of criminalizing people based on their HIV status.” (They’ll start their protest at 4 p.m.)

Workers who used to be employed by Bain Capital-owned companies like Sensata Technologies, Burlington Coat Factory, and Dunkin Donuts have been traveling around the country by bus to oppose the “Romney-Ryan economy.” They’ll be at Hofstra at 4 p.m. with a “Bain Job Destroyer” puppet.

In advance of the debate, the Obama campaign deployed its big gun and resident math teacher – former President Clinton – in a new web video to “explain” how Romney’s tax cut plan indeed costs $5 trillion – a sum the former governor rejects.

Some non-debate, but still political, events on tap:

Before heading to Long Island, Cuomo will speak at the NYS Police Academy Graduation. Empire State Plaza Convention Center, Albany, 11 a.m.

At noon, Democratic NY-24 candidate Dan Maffei and his supporters will call on Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle to “take a stand on hydrofracking.” At the water tower/standpipe at the top of the hill in Thornden Park, 501 Ostrom Ave., Syracuse.

At 12:30 p.m., Monroe County Democratic Chairman Joe Morelle will hold a press conference to denounce GOP state Senate candidate/Assemblyman Sean Hanna’s “dirty political tricks.” Party HQ, 1150 University Ave., Building #5, Rochester.

Cuomo’s New NY Education Reform Commission is meeting form 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. , Bank Street College of Education, 610 West 112th St., Manhattan.

Schumer is in Utica today. At 1 p.m., he’ll join local law enforcement and other officials in Utica and Oneida County to crack down on the recent rash of scrap metal theft. Utica Department of Public Works Garage, 11 Wurz Ave.

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership will announce its 2012 endorsements, and its PAC will host a “Meet the Candidates” fundraiser. Embassy Suites, 200 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Headlines…

The NYT’s Danny Hakim writes: “While the nation’s unemployment rate has been declining over the last year, New York State’s has been rising sharply, presenting a challenge for (Cuomo) as he tries to build an image as a fiscal centrist who can transform the state’s business climate.”

Cuomo and GOP Westchester County Assembly candidate Bob Castelli bonded over muscle cars yesterday – specifically, the governor’s 1968 Pontiac GTO convertible.

Ross Perot endorsed Romney, saying the nation “can’t afford four more years in which debt mushrooms out of control, our government grows and our military is weakened.”

Rep. Paul Ryan, the “very good Boy Scout” who “waited his turn.”

At least a half-dozen professors who gave political donations to Obama have been quoted in news articles opining about his administration and the 2012 race for the White House.

Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani accused the Obama administration of a “cover-up” in Libya.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly took the blame for the Benghazi attack – a move interpreted as trying to take the heat off Obama on the eve of his second debate.

Some Democrats are worried the swing states are slipping away from Obama, creating a scenario in which Romney might win a very close election.

The first lady and the president voted early – by mail – and are encouraging others who live in states that allow that to do so, too.

Obama has turned to Hollywood A-listers to help him make his closing argument.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has spent $13.5 million so far in her bid to win a full six-year term.

The most expensive race for a congressional seat in Central New York history has reached new heights. More than $6.2 million has been spent so far in the NY-24 battle between Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle and former Rep. Dan Maffei.

“Diva” GOP state Senate candidate Mindy Meyer, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Kevin Parker and raised almost no money to date, had a live elephant at her Long Island country club fund-raiser.

The debate between Republican Rep. Nan Hayworth and Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney that was hosted by YNN last night got a bit testy.

Republican Sen. Steve Saland and his Democratic opponent, Terry Gipson, debated last night, too. A third candidate, Neil Di Carlo, who almost beat Saland in the GOP primary, declined to participate.

Cuomo is strongly considering a surprise bid from Syracuse University to run a new federally financed nonprofit agency that will monitor treatment of people with developmental disabilities and mental illnesses. Disability advocates are questioning the application.

Michael Powell suggests Mayor Bloomberg “might consider crowing less and worrying more” about NYC’s economy.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson received a six-figure pay raise that may put her $2.3 million in earnings among the top ranks of higher education compensation.

The switch from the Democratic Party to the GOP by long-shot NYC mayoral candidate Tom Allon could boost the competitiveness of the race for the Republican nomination.

Former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik had trouble remembering much as he testified at the perjury trial of brothers Frank and Peter DiTommaso, and broke down in tears on the stand.

Former JCOPE commissioner Ravi Batra said the commission’s attempt to secure all his records and notes all his records and notes amid an investigation into press leaks is illegal and “stinks to high heaven.”

Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes, who was first elected in 1989 and ran unopposed in 2009, now has two potential challengers for 2013 and hasn’t said whether he’ll seek re-election.

While local leaders cry poor, state records show counties’ sales tax revenue continues to increase. The top funding source for counties, which is also shared with some cities, was up 2.4 percent through September compared to the same period last year.

Outgoing Assemblyman Dan Burling endorsed Christina Abt, an Independence Party candidate who’s also running on the Democratic line, over his fellow Republican, David DiPietro, in the race to replace him.

Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said he and several upstate mayors plan to meet privately with Cuomo later this month to discuss ways the state can help their financially-distressed cities stave off insolvency.

Said Syracuse Mayor (and state Democratic Co-Chair) Stephanie Miner: “I don’t believe for a second the governor authorized or knew of a statement whereby his staff would refer to the Upstate cities as beggars. People in the city of Syracuse are not beggars.”

The final chapter of Entergy Nuclear’s bid to keep Indian Point operating for another 20 years kicked off with a lengthy discussion of a computer model used to predict what pipes inside a nuclear power plant may be susceptible to corrosion