On Monday, President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney meet at Lynn University in Boca Raton for the final Presidential debate of 2012. This debate is slated to focus on foreign policy. It begins at 9 p.m. EST.
The format of this debate is identical to the first. This time, though, it's expected that moderator Bob Schieffer will take a more active role than Jim Lehrer. Schieffer is known for asking questions that get his subjects to open up, as well as pressing on issues and getting to the bottom of vague or elusive answers. After last week's Town Hall debate, in which both Obama and Romney skirted answers without real intervention from Candy Crowley, it will be interesting to watch Bob Schieffer hold them to a more direct answer.
This debate may be the most revealing out of the three, as Obama and Romney have not gone to such lengths to differentiate their foreign policy plans as they have with domestic issues. While the Obama campaign is usually guilty of presenting more reasons against Romney than for Obama, foreign policy is an area in which Romney seems to doing a lot of saber-rattling and fist-shaking at Obama's "weaknesses," but he has also not really given Americans a clear idea of what a Romney foreign policy will look like. He agrees with the basic time table for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, but this seems to be the only plan he has really outlined. He calls Obama weak on China, he criticizes the 'apology tour' and Obama's appearance on The View after the attack on the Benghazi consulate, and calls the sanctions on Iran too weak. He has yet to present a much different plan for any of these though: he has not laid out a plan for stepping up diplomatic security abroad or taking whatever strong stance on Iran he thinks is more appropriate -- a declaration of war perhaps? It's difficult to see his plan for all the bravado and over-blown disapproval.
Obama, on the other hand, has to deal with some tough questions about his record. It seems almost laughable that Afghanistan may come up this late in the election given that it's been completely and embarrasshingly neglected thus far, but this seems like it would be the most substantial avenue of attack for Mitt Romney. The violence is escalating in Afghanistan, and some accounts would even indicate that the Taliban is gaining momentum. These are some tough questions to answer to, and I would like to see Bob Schieffer bring them up.
It seems unlikely that Romney will try to pin Afghanistan blunders on Obama too much, though (strange, I might add, that in an election where Romney has taken every opportunity to express outrage at Obama's policies, that he has not said anything about the war we've been involved in for the past decade). He will probably go back to his favorite attacks that juxtapose the promises Obama made in 2008 with the recent unrest in the Middle East. It doesn't help that Obama did indeed say some dumb things in 2008, like the promise that he would ease anti-American sentiment across the world just by... having an Arab middle name? Having grown up in a Muslim country? I can't remember exactly what he was going for, but that statement and others like it make him look horribly unserious, especially in the wake of the Benghazi attacks. They must be the most effective line of attack for Romney, too, since those are the kinds of things Romney has been going after most enthusiastically.
This is probably the least predictable debate yet, given the lack of foreign policy plans that each candidate is putting forward--and if Mitt Romney makes up a plan as he goes along like he did in the first debate, we may be in for a real surprise as to what his foreign policy plans are. It also has the potential to be the most fatal for Obama, especially if Bob Schieffer takes out the tough issues -- ironically, the issues that have been missing from both campaigns so far. I think the scales tilt in Obama's favor slightly, but an potential upset could lie in the questions Schieffer chooses to pose.
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9:07 pm : Mitt Romney: "We cannot kill our way out of this mess." Juxtapose with January's Mitt Romney who said of his plan for dealing with the Taliban: "We go anywhere they are, and we kill them."
9:25 : Romney getting excited beecause this is the first mention of strengthening the U.S. at home and his first chance to attack the economy
9:29 for attacking an opponent for being airy-fairy, Romney seems to have a lot of optimistic and unspecific plans for um, the entire rest of the world
9:30 and now Romney will usurp the foreign policy focus and turn it into one on the economy
9:32 Oh my God, I thought we could maybe go one debate without hearing about how Romney is taking us back to the same policies that got us 'into this mess in the first place'
9:35 Ok. Stop; this is the foreign policy debate. It's like when a couple tries to fight about something new and the same underlying resentments come up.
9:37 Nice try to refocus this on foreign policy, Bob Schieffer, but now Romney wants to talk about education and his bipartisanship record in Romney.
9:37 I wish Obama could refute Romney's domestic policy bragging this well when they were actually supposed to be talking about that.
9:43 "Well sir, we also don't have as many horses and bayonets as we did in 1916." --Best line of the debate yet; Obama really taking advantage of Romney's foreign policy inexperience, but perhaps a bit too disrespectfully. Audience broke the rules and laughed.
9:46 Obama skirting whether he would declare an attack on Israel as an attack on the U.S.
9:57 All I can expect that will happen under a Romney presidency is magic. Everyone will have great jobs, low taxes, and he will ensure that Israel will no longer be in danger--just by virtue of a Romney administration guaranteeing safety and peace across the world.
10:18 Romney, laughing: "Well, yes DUH, if I'm President the United States will be very strong." Ok, he didn't say duh.
10:25 Romney's attack on Solyndra was his best, albeit angriest, of the night maybe. Love how he flies off the handle in anger then smiles when he's done.
10:27 Finally Romney has a counter-attack to Obama's line about not going back to the same policies. 'I certainly don't want to go back to the policies of the past 4 years.'
10:29 "I think we all love teachers." Thanks, Bob Schieffer.
10:30 Obama is getting his closing remarks from the first debate mixed up with his remarks for this one.
10:32 Romney always smizes during his closing remarks.