BOCA RATON, FL - Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama will participate in their final face-to-face battle of the 2012 election cycle tonight at Florida's Lynn University. Like the two presidential debates before tonight's showdown, the candidates will debate for 90 minutes starting at 9 pm ET. The focus of tonight's debate will be on foreign policy, something very low on the priority list for voters according to Reuters. Romney, Obama and CBS News moderator Bob Schieffer will be seated together at a desk in the same format used for the vice presidential debate between Paul Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden two weeks ago in Kentucky. Schieffer has selected the following topics: "our longest war" in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Israel/Iran, America's role in the world, the changing Middle East and the new face of terrorism (two segments), and the rise of China and tomorrow's world.
Mitt Romney - The media narrative in the spin room here in Boca Raton is that Mitt Romney isn't qualified when it comes to leading the United States on the topic of foreign policy. In the past two debates, Romney has been successful at pinning President Obama into a corner with his own failed policies while presenting his own ideas. While it is true Romney has little experience in the area of foreign policy, President Obama's ongoing cover-up of the terrorist attack on 9/11 in Libya is surely something Romney can use against him. Let's just hope this time moderator Bob Schieffer doesn't pull a Candy Crowley by getting in the middle of a fact check by stating the "facts" incorrectly. Tonight's debate format will benefit Romney, who is used to making big decisions and having discussions at board room tables and in a corner office. As we saw in the first debate, something Guy called an "epic destruction" of Obama, Romney does well when he can focus on a direct argument against Obama, rather than having to pay attention to other factors in room with a town hall style format. On substance, Romney has a binder full of hits he can take against Obama's foreign policy: 1) Handling of Libya: coverup, YouTube video claim, Hillary taking the hits, etc. 2) Obama's claims al Qaeda is "on the run" when they are actually making a comeback 3) Obama taking his "al Qaeda is weak" argument out of his campaign stump speeches 4) Obama's abandonment of Israel 5) Obama's failure to deal with Iran's nuclear progress 6) Obama's hypocrisy of claiming he would close Guantanamo Bay but kept it open 7) Egypt now being led by the Muslim Brotherhood. You can be sure Romney will also bring up President Obama's habit of bowing and apologizing to foreign leaders, after all, Romney did write a book called "No Apology." If the topic of Mexico comes up, Romney will have another chance to bring up the deadly Fast and Furious scandal, something Obama refused to discuss last week in New York.
Barack Obama - Although President Obama will be rapidly dodging all of the arguments stated above tonight, he does have the opportunity to paint himself as tough on terrorism. You can bet we'll be hearing a lot about Osama bin Laden being dead. Obama's use of drones to take out terrorists, including Americans working as terrorists overseas, should come up for discussion and will give Obama an opening to show the so called "dent" he has been claiming his administration put on al Qaeda. That being said, he will also have to explain why he has been telling the American people for a year that al Qaeda is "on the run" when intelligence shows, and military officials say, the terrorist network is growing in strength. Obama will paint the Arab Spring as a positive development for the world, but may have to answer for his "bumps in the road" reference to Libya and the fallout from the Arab Spring. I assume Obama will also have to clarify again whether Egypt is an ally of the United States since he stated just two months ago the country wasn't. Foreign policy was something difficult to hit Obama on prior to 9/11, but his handling of the terrorist attack in Libya isn't impressing voters according to a new Huffington Post poll.
The new survey found that a 41 percent to 32 percent plurality of US adults do not approve of Obama's handling of the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows Obama essentially tied with Romney on the issue of foreign policy.
- On “international affairs,” broadly, Obama leads only 49 percent to 46 percent.
- On handling “terrorism,” Obama takes 47 percent to Romney’s 46 percent – effectively a tie.
- On being the “better commander-in-chief of the military,” Obama is up by just 3 points, 48 percent to 45 percent.
Moderator Bob Schieffer - Because CNN's Candy Crowley improperly inserted herself into last week's presidential debate, I imagine Schieffer will be careful about when he chooses to get in the middle of a Romney/Obama dispute of the facts. Michelle Malkin points out Schieffer already has a long history of bias.
The Media - Will we hear cheers for Obama coming from the media hall tonight in Boca Raton? Most likely. As I already said, the narrative here is that Mitt Romney is under qualified when it comes to foreign policy. Reporters were swarming former presidential candidate and Senator John McCain earlier today and asked him, "Do you think Mitt Romney is qualified on the topic of foreign policy? Do you think he will be able to make a strong case against Obama's strong record on foreign policy?" You get the picture.
Some see tonight's debate as a tie breaker for the candidates. Romney handily won the first debate and Obama squeaked by with a win in the second according to polling (although Romney won over voters 2-1 during the second debate on the economy). With the ongoing events in the Middle East, tonight's battle will surely get interesting. Obama is trailing Romney by six points today according to Gallup and the third debate has the least impact historically. It's time for Obama to throw a Hail Mary pass and hope for the best.