According to a CBS News poll, President Obama comes into Monday's debate with a 50-41 percent lead over Mitt Romney when voters were asked who would do a better job with foreign policy. Overall, 42% of voters predict a win for the president Monday, compared with 34% who expect Romney to come away with the victory.
These numbers bode well for Romney. Despite his momentum this month, he debates as the underdog. If he performs as expected - slightly worse than Obama - he won't be any worse off for it, and the overall momentum of the race just might continue to roll in his favor. If he beats expectations - anywhere from toe-to-toe with or significantly stronger than the president - his campaign will be in an even better position tomorrow morning.
In order for the president to secure a real win tonight, he must present a much stronger case than Romney. Higher expectations turn what otherwise may seem like a tie into a loss for Obama.
The CBS News poll shows other interesting numbers that again could work against the president. Although on overall foreign policy Obama holds a nine-point lead, the advantage shrinks when specifically regarding Iran (46-43), disappears on China (44-44), and is reversed when Israel is the focus (42-46). Even if Romney performs only to these levels during specific questions tonight, he will once again come away as having surpassed expectations. Libya (not part of the poll) is another issue. We will soon see if the former governor learned from his accusatory gaffe in last week's debate.
For real-time coverage of the debate, and live analysis, see here.