At 9PM EST, the third and final presidential debate between President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney will kick off at Lynn University in Boca Raton Florida. The debate, which will be moderated by Bob Schieffer of CBS will focus on foreign policy and will likely cover a number of issues that are of particular interest to America’s Jewish community.
President Obama will likely face a grilling over his handling of the aftermath of the September 11th attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya which left a U.S. Ambassador and three others dead. Obama has been accused of deliberately misleading the public in order to preserve the foreign policy narrative that his administration has carefully cultivated. Obama will likely attempt to steer discussions on the Libya tragedy towards Mitt Romney’s eager response to the incident that some have deemed insensitive.
Another issue that will likely receive significant attention is that of Iran’s rapidly progressing nuclear program and drive towards nuclear armament. Obama claims that he has united the world in isolating the Iranian regime, and Romney has accused him of not doing enough. Romney’s challenge will be presenting an alternative path that stands apart but also doesn’t scare the American public whose appetite for war has diminished in recent years.
One key point of departure that may emerge is if the candidates are challenged over their exact red lines on Iran, the White House has strongly stipulated that its concern with Iran is the development of a nuclear weapon, whereas Mitt Romney has indicated on more than one occasion, that he would not accept a nuclear capable Iran.
Obama’s treatment of Israel, the ‘Arab Spring,’ China and Russia are among other key issues that are likely to arise.
Tonight provides a big opportunity for Romney to strike some devastating blows against a President whose foreign policy track record has been widely recognized as significantly lacking. The great challenge for Romney will be not to allow himself to get dragged into the semantics, and to be able to present a clear alternate vision for American influence abroad.
According to today’s Algemeiner IBD/TIPP Daily Jewish Vote Aggregate Average Tracking Poll, President Obama leads Governor Romney 61% to 37% with 1.9% undecided. Tonight’s debate may be an opportunity for either candidate to score points with the Jewish electorate.
WRAP: A lot of agreement in tonight’s debate. Romney failed to establish a substantial contrast between himself and President Obama on a number of issues. All round a sharp performance by Obama, if condescending at points, he was able to divert and deflect on a number of the key attacks against him, and draw Romney in to a brawl on the details. Romney came across as moderate for the most part, less attacks, sharp at certain points, but missed some substantial opportunities. All Round the result will likely be similar to the last debate, victory for Obama by a minimal margin. How this will impact the polls remains to be seen.
10:34 – Debate is over, candidates shake hands, Obama stops for a chat with a child that appears to be Mitt Romney’s grandson.
10:32 – Romney promises higher take-home pay, balanced budget and jobs. “America is going to come back,” Romney promises. Says we need to work across the aisle. “I would like to be your next President to support and help this great nation,” Romney concludes.
10:29 – Obama seeks to link Romney to Bush years, in his closing statement. Promises to maintain strongest military, with focus on home. We need to move forward he says. If I am re-elected Obama says, “I promise you I will always listen to your voices, I will fight for your families.” Strong finish for Obama.
10:27 - Bob is out of the game, candidates are facing each other directly. Debate is completely focused on economy now. Seems repetitive. Romney is citing individual stories. “I want to get our private sector growing and I know how to do it,” says Romney. Closing statements now.
10:24 – Romney slams Obama’s investment in failed companies, mentions Solyndra. Obama doesn’t let him finish, coming across as rude.
10:22 – Obama says that the U.S. is shopping around in the pacific, putting pressure on China.
10:18 – Romney accuses China of currency manipulation. “On day one I will label them a currency manipulator,” Romney says about China. Bob confronts Romney asking wouldn’t that strategy create a trade war? Romney answers saying that China needs the U.S. more than the U.S. needs China.
10:16 – Obama is now touting his success on China. Debate pivots back to the economy. Romney interjects: “The greatest national security treat that the world faces is a nuclear Iran,” he asserts.
10:15 – Obama says terrorism is the greatest threat to American national security. No mention of Iran.
10:11 – “We must have a far more comprehensive and effective strategy to move the world further away from extremism and terrorism,” Romney says. Listing a string of Obama Admin. failures, he asks, ”Are Israel and the Palestinians closer to reaching a peace agreement,” and answers, “no.”
10:08 - Bob asks Romney about Afghanistan. Bob slips up, says “Obama” instead of “Osama.” Romney says Pakistan is an important country because of its nuclear weapons, we must work with the people in Pakistan to help them move towards a more responsible state, he says.
10:05 – Topic moves on to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Romney stresses the importance of encouraging Pakistan to move towards a “more stable government,” partly because of their nuclear arsenal. Romney endorses the concept of conditional aid with Pakistan.
10:03 – 38 Democrat Senators sent a letter to Obama saying “please repair our relationship with Israel,” accuses Romney.
9:56 - “We should not have wasted these four years,” says Romney on Iran sanctions. Slamming an Obama ‘apology tour’ Romney says, “By the way you skipped Israel, our closest friend in the region,” “and by the way they noticed.” Mentioning various statements Obama has made, Romney says, “Mr. President America has not dictated to other nations.” ”When I went to Israel as a candidate I didnt take donors I went to Yam Vashem,” retorts Obama, continuing, …and then I went down to the border town of Sderot and I saw families there who showed me where missiles landed, which is why we funded Iron Dome.
“The central question here is who is going to be credible,” says Obama.
9:52 – “I think they saw weakness” says Romney launching a pointed attack on Obama’s foreign policy weakness. Slams Obama’s “apology tour.” ”When the president says he was going to create daylight between ourselves and Israel” the Iranians noticed that as well. “An Iranian nuclear program is not acceptable to us,” continues Romney, “we need to put the pressure on them (Iran) as hard as we possible can,” he concludes. Romney’s best attack of the night.
9:51 – Obama says that the sanctions on Iran have taken a while to establish, in order to build international support.
9:47 – Romney underscores Obama’s point “If Israel is attacked, we will have their back.” “A nuclear capable Iran is unacceptable” Romney stresses. “I would tighten those sanctions,” promises Romney, mentioning a few details. “I would make sure Ahmadinejad is indicted under the genocide convention,” says Romney calling for complete diplomatic isolation of Iranian diplomats.
9:44 – Next question: Red lines on Israel and Iran. “Would either of you be willing to declare that an attack on Israel is an attack on the United States?” asks Bob. ”If Israel is attacked I will stand with Israel” Obama says. Obama touts sanctions as a great success with Iran.
9:42 - Romney says the small size of the Navy and the Air Force is unacceptable. “I will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars,” says Romney, Obama bites back denying the allegations. Obama is talking in a very condescending fashion.
9:40 – Obama is coming across as nasty and spiteful almost childish in his sniping and interruptions. He has nothing on Biden, mind you, but may have taken a few sessions with him.
9:38 – Bob asks Romney about how he will pay for a strong military. Number one he says is get rid of Obamacare. We must get rid of programs we don’t need he says, calls for medicare to be run by the States.
9:37 - Romney touting the his success in education as governor, Bob is trying to steer the discussion back to foreign policy.
9:35 – Now Obama is going on about education policy. What foreign policy debate? Romney is missing a great opportunity here to go for the jugular on an Obama weak spot.
9:33 – “When it comes to our economy, I know what it means to create 12 million new jobs,” says Romney as the debate shifts back to the economy. American strength at home is key to maintaining influence abroad both candidates agree. Romney has shifted to his economic talking points.
9:30 – “The tension that existed between Israel and the United States was very unfortunate,” says Romney, calling for the U.S. to stand by our allies. Romney slams Obama’s reaction to Iran’s Green Revolution. “With Israel where we have unprecedented military and intelligence co-operation,” retorts Obama.
9:27 – Romney is calling for peace through strength, references Ahmadinejad’s taunt about American debt. Calls for strong military and staying close to allies and principles. “In nowhere in the world is America’s influence greater than it was four years ago,” concludes Romney.
9:26 – Romney says he wouldn’t have stuck with Mubarak. Again he is struggling to differentiate his own ideas.
9:24 – Obama says that the Egyptians must abide by its treaty with Israel, “that is a red line for us,” he asserts.
9:23 – What you just heard Governor Romney say is that he doesn’t have different ideas because we are doing what we should be doing, says Obama.
9:21 – Obama is touting success in Libya, says Gaddafi had more American blood on his hand than anyone else besides Osama Bin Laden.
9:18 – Both Romney and Obama say that don’t want to get drawn into Syria conflict. Sounding quite similar at this point. Romney seems to be mirroring what Obama called for. He needs to focus more on drawing a contrast.
9:15 - We have organized the international community against Assad, Obama says, responding to a question about Syria. “What we are seeing taking place in Syria is heartbreaking,” says Obama, ”I am confident that Assad’s days are numbered.”
9:14 – Obama mentions Israel as a true friend and our greatest ally in the region. Presents a 5 point plan, calls for nation building at home.
9:12 – Romney is coming across as more presidential. Obama is attempting to drag him into a slug-fest, and it just worked….
9:11 - Obama is coming across as very petty picking on odd statements that Romney has made in the past about foreign policy.
9:09 – Romney outlines his Middle East foreign policy plans, calling for 1. economic development, 2. gender equity, 3. the rule of law. Romney is painting a bleak picture of a “region in tumult.”
9:07 – Obama says his number one responsibility is to protect Americans. Touting his success in Libya and the Libyans that have publicly showed support for the United States.
9:06 – “With the Arab Spring came a great deal of hope… instead we have seen a number of disturbing events,” says Romney, painting a bleak picture of world events, “of course Iran is a few steps closer to a nuclear weapon.” “We can’t kill our way out if this mess,” he says.
9:03 – The first question is about the ‘changing Middle East.’ Straight to Libya, Bob asks Romney the first question. What happened? he asks.
9:02 – Bob Schieffer explains the debate terms and the candidates enter. The debate is seated.
8:22 – The candidates have released opposing ads in advance of the debate focusing on Foreign Policy. Here is a link to Mitt Romney’s.