Two Takes: Obama vs. Romney Round 3
The third and final debate between President Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney takes the form of a 90-minute forum at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. The focus will be foreign policy with issues in the Middle East taking center stage for Monday's event. Bob Schieffer of CBS News is moderating.
During the first two presidential debates (see No. 1 and No. 2) and the vice presidential debate, we asked NewsHour special contributors Rick Davis and Mo Elleithee to lead the discussion -- from opposite ends of the political spectrum. We asked them to sit in one more time for the final debate.
Their "Two Takes" posts have prompted several comments from readers. We look forward to hearing from you once again.
We'll update this blog occasionally through the end of the debate.
Romney supporters in Boca Raton, Fla. Photo by Gary Coronado/The Palm Beach Post
8:20 p.m. ET | Rick Davis: It the president thought he had a high bar in the last debate, having to recover from a horrible first debate, then he must realize that he needs a knock-out blow tonight to keep hold of his presidency. If candidate Obama is unable to turn the election around tonight he will slowly continue to see his polling results fall further and further behind Romney's continued momentum.
Mitt Romney has moved into a comfortable lead in many of the battleground states that only a few weeks ago were considered Obama leaning. Slowly but surely the turnaround since the first debate has continued putting Romney in the enviable position that a tie in tonight's debate could mean victory on Election Day.
It's not clear where the bright contrasts between Obama and Romney are on foreign policy, making it that much harder for a breakout performance by the president. All the news for the last two weeks on foreign policy has been bad for the Obama Administration. Syria, Iran, Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq are all conspiring to sink the Obama foreign policy franchise. What's most incredible is the Obama troubles are all by his own hand dished up by an adoring media that simply can't ignore the administration's failings.
The expectations tonight couldn't be better for Romney going into the final debate.
8:20 p.m. ET | Mo Elleithee: Here's what I'm looking for in tonight's debate.
Obama supporter in Boca Raton, Fla. Photo by Gary Coronado/The Palm Beach Post
1) The commander in chief test. There's a reason why the president continues to lead in all polls on questions of foreign policy. He's been a successful and strong leader on these issues. He pledged to end the war in Iraq and draw down in Afghanistan. He's done both. He pledged to go after terrorists. Osama bin Laden is dead and al-Qaida and the Taliban are shells of what they once were. He's pledged to strengthen our foreign alliances and put an end to cowboy diplomacy. Today, America's standing abroad is stronger than when he took office, and we've worked with our allies on countless challenges as opposed to going-it-alone. Gov. Romney has so far failed miserably on every foreign policy test he's taken. His much touted foreign trip over the summer was an unmitigated disaster as he systematically insulted our allies abroad. His shoot first, ask questions later approach at his late night press conference the night of the Libya tragedy was foolish and disastrous. Romney has a real commander in chief problem. Can he fix that tonight?
2) What would Romney actually do? Romney's foreign policy positions are full of bluster, but no substance. He continues to attack the president on Libya and Iran. But he still has yet to say what he would do differently. The only logical next step would be to march the United States into another war. If that's his plan, he needs to level with the American people. If it's not, then what exactly would he do differently?
3) Defense spending. Romney continues to hammer away at the president on sequestration. No one wants these defense cuts. But Romney's alternative would be far worse and make it more likely. As most Republican leaders have said, had the debt ceiling deal that passed last summer NOT gone through, the alternative would have been far worse and brought about another fiscal collapse. Yet Gov. Romney continues to oppose it. And the Romney-Ryan budget approach would, according to Defense Secretary Leon Pannetta, make sequestration more likely, not less. I'd expect the President to hold his feet to the fire on this.
Tonight is the final chance for voters to size these candidates up and make a decision on who's the stronger leader. Romney has a lot of ground to make up on this measure.
Rick Davis served as campaign manager for both of Sen. John McCain's presidential bids.
Mo Elleithee is a Democratic strategist who worked for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential effort.