It's the last chance voters will have at seeing President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney going toe-to-toe tonight. In the first debate, Romney completely destroyed perceptions about who he was, and his debate victory was largely seen as the biggest win in presidential debate history. The second debate was considered more of a draw, with Obama receiving slightly better marks overall, but Romney won by a wide margin on economic and fiscal issues presented at the debate. In the end, the two debates did much more for Romney than they did for Obama.
The final debate will be hosted by Bob Shieffer of CBS News, and will have six 15-minute segments covering foreign policy topics. Those topics are:
America's role in the world
Our longest war - Afghanistan and Pakistan
Red Lines - Israel and Iran
The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism - I
The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism - II
The Rise of China and Tomorrow's World
Foreign Policy is clearly not a "high-interest" subject for most Americans, and most voters are zeroed in on jobs and the economy. The final question - China - may play into those themes, but how many people will stay until the end? Some say foreign policy is an Obama "strength" but this is based mostly on polls where Americans give him relatively high marks. But then, it's easy to get high marks on subject matter few people have a lot of information about. Unlike with President Bush, Obama has not had a media obsessed with attaching every mis-step oversees to the administration, much less launching a "count-down" death chart. Overall, Obama's big weaknesses will be on Israel, where he has not done much to enhance the relationship with America's greatest ally. He is also particularly weak on China, where he refuses to say anything negative because "they might be listening."Obama will run on removing troops from Afghanistan (as though he didn't put them there) the same way he ran on removing troops in Iraq (despite a timeline already being in place when he ran in 2008).
As for Romney, he has to avoid sounding like he wants to start a war in every part of the country. Despite Republicans being labeled as "war-mongers" most major conflicts have been started by Democrats. He will probably hold up the "peace through strength" model of Ronald Reagan. It's unclear if other topics such as energy independence and illegal immigration will make it into the discussion. Surprisingly, there does not look to be much room for those topics...
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Photo Source: Joe Raedle, Getty Images News