17:30 EST- International newspapers, prominently The Guardian and a piece in France's Liberation decry the President's lack of support for the Palestinian authority. Romney himself cannot profess to be impartial on this subject, however, and the debate could only touch on the subject minutely.
Obama certainly will be best suited to discuss his doctrine, a less interventionist approach, including the use of drones and remaining non-committal on the issue of Syria.
Romney must attempt to draw distinctions in foreign policy, which may prove challenging. His botched response to the Benghazi embassy attacks in its immediate aftermath and in last week's debate indicate a poor understanding of the facts, as well as a failed attempt to gain expedient political points in a time of dramatic confusion.
Obama's record is fairly easy to tout, yet this masks some of the complexities and contradictions members of his left-leaning constituency find toward the potential of killing American citizens abroad charged with terror, à la Anwar Al-Awlaki. However, this controversy remains within in his own party who find increased drone attacks as too close a vesitigial affect of the Bush Doctrine.
Pundits on either side will already claim victory for their candidate, so remain deeply engaged and mindful of the logical inconsistencies professed by both candidates.
And have fun out there. Remember, it's just a game.
21:00 EST- Debates to begin shortly. Schieffer is out there, setting the mood.
9:03 Obama- blue tie, Romney- red tie. Classic
9:05 First set of questions: Challenge of a changing Middle East:
"Hope for change towards moderation...more political representation for women."- Romney
9:14 Mali now has "Al-Qaeda type individuals" according to Romney. Claims Obama has now comprehensive plan to stop Muslim extremism.
Obama touts his record, claims Romney has inconsistent views on foreign policy.
9:17 Obama classifies Romney's foreign policy comes from the Cold War era, cites Romney's "Russia" gaffe.
9:18 Obama waffling on the issue of Syria, unable to commit to proposing regime change completely.
9:24 Romney advocating a tactful approach to Syria as well, without much difference between Obama's approach. Wants to arm insurgency and believes Assad "will go."
9:27 Both agree on the necessity of democracy in the Middle East. Romney looks uncomfortable and a bit shell-shocked. He now attempts an soliloquy on national debt. Relies heavily on the vagueries of the terms "strong" and "lead", trying to drag the debate towards military spending, the economy and America's allies. Criticizes Obama for silence on the Green Revolution in Iran.
9:32 The first half hour of the debate has been dominated by Obama. Both pepper their statements with their economic talking points, hopefully Schieffer draws it back towards the debate on hand.
9:35 Obama addresses his education policy, draws distinctions between him and Romney.
Romney now transitions from military spending to economic policy, seeking to balance the budget.
9:41 "The math simply doesn't work"- Obama on Romney's multifarious plans.
Romney advocates spending more on the US Navy and US Air Force. Decries the fact the United States military cannot fight more than one conflict at once. Can Obama seize on this moment?
9:42 Bayonets and horses, Obama-slam!
Back now towards Israel and Iran:
9:48 "Iran will not get a nuclear weapon"- Obama. Happily takes credit for destroying a sovereign nation's economy. Disagreement over Romney based on Romney's view of "pre-mature" military action.
Romney: "we have Israel's back militarily."
9:52 Obama claims the success of the sanctions is due to the participation of countries like Russia and China. Iran cannot perpetually engage in conversations and must meet demands of international community.
9:53 Iran sees the US as not strong, due to Obama and his willingness to meet with foreign leaders. Decries "apology tour." Says this contributes to signs of weakness in Obama's foreign policy.
9:54 Essential to show strength from the very outset, tightest sanctions possible. With tough sanctions, military intervention unnecessary.
9:55 Takes "apology tour" myth to task. Obama claims Romney was doing business with Chinese firm funding Iranian oil extraction. Lands a more or less impotent blow. Romney smirks.
9:56 Four years closer to a nuclear Iran- Romney. Romney- America doesn't dictate to other nations, they remove other nation's dictators.
9:58 Obama given an opportunity to tout his credentials in regional foreign policy, Romney served one up for him.
10:00 Obama wins credibility debate, he says. In this debate, Obama may have won this credibility debate as well. Performing very strong in this second third of the debate.
10:02 Romney sees US withdrawing militarily and politically from the region. Obama claims Romney is "all over the map" in his views on foreign policy.
10:03 Obama wins again on the Bin Laden issue. Brutally visceral anecdote about talking with a girl named Peyton who lost a father on 9/11.
10:04 Schieffer turns to Afghanistan.....
10:05 Finished with Afghanistan by 2014, surge successful- Romney.
10:08 "Time for some nation-building at home"- Obama on ending the war in Afghanistan.
10:09 Schieffer with Obama/Osama Freudian slip. Yikes.
10:11 Debate shifts to Pakistan. Romney does not advocate taking a hard-line against Pakistan. Support needs to come with a quid pro quo. Romney believes drone strikes are a necessary tool in the "War on Terror". Wants more comprehensive measures to ameliorate problems in the vague, geographical zone known as the Middle East.
Obama believes him and his administration stood on the right side of history throughout the Arab Spring. He wants to limit the power of terrorist organizations.
10:15 The rise of China....
Obama sees China as an adversary and a potential partner. Romney believes a nuclear Iran is the greatest global threat. Romney too believes China can be a partner, but with some restrictions. Romney calls China "currency manipulator", believes they are stealing intellectual property. Schieffer discusses the potential risk of a trade war. Romney believes the current trading relationship is insoluble. China steals America jobs. Obama hits out at Romney sending jobs overseas.
Romney now attempting to play catch up on the auto industry remark by Obama. According to his New York Time's op-ed, he is partially telling the truth, remaining wilfully ignorant on the country's dire economic situation (i.e. frozen credit markets) at the time of the bailout.
10:30 Obama: wants to enable our strengths, proposes tax plan, repeats "nation-building at home" remark. Discusses the resiliency of the American people. Concise, not very captivating.
10:32 Romney Security and balancing the budget and "take-home pay", Romney's mantra continues. "I know what it takes to get this country back..."- Romney. Wants to take the torch from Greatest Generation. Long-winded response.
Obama wins, but will this turn around the national trend? Too much talk of domestic policy for a foreign policy debate. The cynics will remark "same as it ever was", those supporting Romney will highlight a few of his statements, primarily regard "America dictating." Obama supporters will feel confident headed into the last three weeks. Obama produced a strong narrative hitting out at Romney's inconsistencies and ineptness in foreign policy.
Obama wins but what will the impact be? Likely a nominal bump in the polls. Likely transitioning into a tense and dramatic election night for both candidates.