BOCA RATON, FL. Oct. 22, 2012 – In their third and final presidential debate, which was supposedly dedicated to foreign policy, both President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney focused almost as much on domestic policy issues which are key to many undecided voters. Topics like U.S. debt, unemployment, the auto bailout and education came up frequently in addition to exchanges over the U.S. role in countries like Israel, Libya, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and China.
Instant polls after the debate gave Obama the edge: CNN said Obama won by among debate watchers it polled; 48% to 40%, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. CBS said its poll of 521 undecided voters said the president won by a 53% to 23% margin and a plus or minus margin of error of 4 percentage points.
Pollster Frank Luntz spoke to 27 undecided voters here after the debate at a forum covered by Fox News, and all but one agreed that the U.S. economy needs to be strengthened in order to support a strong foreign policy. They gave Romney the win on his domestic policy points, but agreed that Obama overwhelmingly won on foreign policy.
Recent nationwide polls show that Romney has closed what had been a 5-10 point lead for Obama and the two candidates are now in a statistical dead heat. With only two weeks remaining before Election Day, it remains unclear whether or not Obama’s strong performance in this third debate will slow Romney’s momentum.
The former Massachusetts Governor was much more reserved last night, especially compared to the second debate when he pushed the president hard over his handling of the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi and whether or not his Administration had been truthful in explaining what it knew about what is now described as a “terrorist” attack and when.
Romney took Obama to task for what he said was weakness, when confronting a “rising tide of chaos” in the Middle East and many other parts of the world. He argued for peace, starting with strengthening the U.S. economy
“In order to be able to fulfill our role in the world, America must be strong. America must lead. And for that to happen, we have to strengthen our economy here at home,” Romney emphasized.
President Obama took an aggressive stance against his rival from the start last night, repeating charges that Romney just wasn’t “telling the truth” and trying to paint the former Massachusetts governor as inconsistent in his foreign policy positions, which he said were deeply rooted in the past.
“When it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980’s, just like the social policies of the 1950’s and the economic policies of the 1920’s,” the president noted.
Responding to a question from moderator Bob Schieffer about whether the U.S. would support Israel in the face of a potential attack, both men went to great pains to show their allegiance to Israel – an important issue with many Jewish voters in Florida.
Asked if he would support budget cuts to the U.S. military. Romney said he would not and noted that, despite requests for more ships from Navy leaders, the U.S. Navy had reduced its fleet of warships to the lowest number since 1917.
Obama quickly pointed out that the U.S. military has changed substantially since the early 1900’s, generating some of the highest Twitter traffic of the night.
“We have fewer horses and bayonets because the military has changed,” Obama explained, “We also have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them, We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”
Obama also made some news of his own during the debate when he said billions in automatic Pentagon cuts, required to take place in early January under a process known as sequestration, would not be taking place after all.
“‘First of all, the sequester is not something I proposed, it’s something that Congress proposed,’ Obama said. ‘It will not happen.’”
In the past, the president has said he wants to avoid the sequester cuts by coming up with a plan to address the nation’s debt with a combination of budget cuts and new revenues.
Both candidates pledged to get tough on China.
“China is both an adversary, but also a potential partner in the international community if it's following the rules,” Obama explained. “So my attitude coming into office was that we are going to insist that China plays by the same rules as everybody else.”
He pointed to a tire case “in which they were flooding us with cheap domestic tires -- or cheap Chinese tires. And we put a stop to it and as a consequence saved jobs throughout America.”
Romney said “China has an interest that's very much like ours in one respect, and that is they want a stable world.” He said they have to manufacture goods and put people to work because “they have about 20 million people coming out of the farms every year coming into the cities, needing jobs.”
But while suggesting that the U.S. “can be a partner with China….if they're willing to be responsible,” Romney also said he would label the Asian giant as a currency manipulator on “day one” of his presidency, allowing the U.S. to apply new tariffs.
Neither candidate mentioned the importance of addressing hunger or food aid around the world as part of U.S. foreign policy.
For the full debate transcript, click:
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