EDISON - President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney come face to face for the first time in this presidential campaign Wednesday for a nationally televised debate that will give millions of Americans a chance to size up two fierce competitors in a moment of high-risk theater.

Romney, who is trailing in polls in a number of key states and running short on time to reverse his fortunes, is angling for a breakout performance in the three 90-minute presidential debates scheduled over the next three weeks.

A new poll shows President Obama has widened his double-digit lead over Mitt Romney in New Jersey.

The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today shows 56 percent of likely voters support Obama, while 39 percent support Romney and four percent are undecided. Obama led Romney by 14 percentage points in the last Rutgers-Eagleton poll conducted in August.

The new poll also found that 56 percent of likely voters say the economy and jobs remain the most important election issues, while 10 percent pick the federal budget deficit and nine percent say education.

Obama is well aware that the remaining five weeks of the race still offer enough time for tectonic shifts in his prospects. He'll want to avoid any campaign-altering mistakes as he presses his case for a second term.

News 12 New Jersey will carry the debate live beginning at 9 p.m.

AP wire services contributed to this report.

Expectations high for first presidential debate of 2012