Foreign policy will take centre stage as Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney face off in a third and final debate Monday, just two weeks ahead of election day.
President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney face off in the third and final debate of this year’s presidential race on Monday, with the two rivals running neck-and-neck just 15 days before Americans head to the polls.
The theme of the final face-to-face duel at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida is foreign policy, a topic in which the Democrat incumbent is considered to have a slight edge over his opponent.
As commander-in-chief for the past four years, Obama has highlighted his leadership in killing al Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden and ending the US war in Iraq. However, Romney will likely attack his record by saying Obama has weakened US influence abroad.
While debates have generally been viewed as having limited importance in presidential elections in the past, the 2012 race has been full of memorable and politically significant debate moments. Romney eliminated Obama’s comfortable lead in opinion polls after a commanding performance during the first debate on October 3.
A combative Obama then tripped up Romney’s momentum as the pair squared off in a less formal town-hall-style debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York last Tuesday.
Monday's debate, which begins at 9pm (0100 GMT Tuesday), will have the rivalling candidates seated at a table with moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News.
Focus on Benghazi and Tehran
The 2012 September 11 attack on a US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi that left four Americans dead, including the US Ambassador, has come up in previous debates and is likely to rear its head in the final tete-à-tete. Romney has insisted that the Obama administration misled the American public over the nature of the assault, and questioned the level of security at the US mission.
Obama has shot back that it has been Romney’s camp, and not his own staff, that has lied about the tragedy in order to reap political gain.
Romney’s team has previously taken Obama to the mat over his supposed weakness on Iran and the Islamic Republic’s efforts to secure nuclear weapons, and is expected to bring up the subject again on Monday.
That argument became all the more significant after the New York Times reported over the weekend that Washington and Tehran had agreed in principle to hold bilateral talks to halt Iran’s nuclear activity. The White House has rushed to deny the report.
“Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney agree, mostly, that the U.S. should not let Iran acquire the capability to produce a nuclear weapon. So both should say whether that resolve means American military action against Iran, if necessary and under what conditions, or American support of action by Israel,” wrote the Palm Beach Post editor Randy Shultz, ahead of the clash.
The war in Afghanistan, the recent pro-democracy revolts in the Arab world, terrorism and the rise of China as a major power are also on the debate’s agenda.
Looking for details
The US president is likely to push the Republican nominee to provide some specific details about his foreign policy plan, or to spell out how he would have acted differently to international events. Romney overseas campaign tour in July was marked by missteps that Obama might seek to exploit.
“Governor Romney needs to show that his vision is not scary and has some subtlety,” said Craig Kennedy, president of the German Marshall Fund, a Washington-based think tank. “[Romney] won’t be able to get away with unrestrained Russian and Chinese bashing on Monday night.”
The debate is the last major chance for Romney and Obama to score points with wide swaths of voters before the fast-approaching November 6 election. More than 60 million viewers watched each of their previous two encounters, and as many are expected for the last confrontation.
Date created : 2012-10-22