President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney met Monday night for the final time just 15 days before the presidential election. The debate in Boca Raton, Fla., was split into five different sections focused on foreign policy and national security.
The debate on the whole had a more civil tone than last week's encounter, with the candidates seated at the same table as moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News. He opened the debate with a question on Libya, a topic that has been in the forefront of the election in the weeks since the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. In the previous presidential debate, Romney and Obama sparred over the president's classification of the four diplomatic murders as an act of terrorism. The exchange Monday was considerably less heated, and Romney did not press the president on his administration's handling of the event.
Romney, as a former governor, has relatively little foreign policy experience, while Obama is able to tout that under his watch U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden. Romney mentioned bin Laden before Obama had the chance to, and the debate conversation focused heavily on the Middle East. The candidates discussed Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Israel, but spoke little of other regions of the world. However, Schieffer did finish the debate with a question on China, and the candidates presented their plans to compete with the rising Asian power.
Despite the fact that the stated focus and all of the questions centered on foreign policy, both candidates managed to sneak domestic issues into the dialogue. Romney said that the United States has the mantle of leadership in the world and we must promote the principles of peace, but the country can't do so with a weak economy.
"But for us to be able to promote those principles of peace requires us to be strong," said Romney. "And that begins with a strong economy here at home. Unfortunately, the economy is not stronger."
The Republican candidate also mentioned his plan to strengthen the American energy industry, the education system, small businesses, and to balance the budget. Obama then hit Romney for his claim that he can reduce the deficit, a plan which Obama and many economists have said does not add up.
"Look, Governor Romney's called for $5 trillion of tax cuts that he says he's going to pay for by closing deductions. Now, the math doesn't work, but he continues to claim that he's going to do it," Obama said. "Unfortunately, Governor Romney's plan doesn't do it. We've got to do it in a responsible way by cutting out spending we don't need, but also asking the wealthiest to pay a little bit more."
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