President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, traded jabs over a range of foreign policy issues Monday in their third and final debate of the 2012 U.S. president campaign. The debate was held at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.
There were fewer interruptions and sharp exchanges in this debate, the candidates perhaps mindful of not coming across as too negative.
Biggest US threats
But at times the debate did produce a clash of worldviews between President Obama and Romney, including an exchange on the biggest threats facing the U.S.
“Governor Romney, I’m glad that you recognize that al-Qaida’s a threat because a few months ago when you were asked what is the biggest geo-political threat facing America, you said Russia,” said Obama.
“That we are talking about the Middle East and how to help the Middle East reject the kind of terrorism we are seeing and the rising tide of tumult and confusion, and attacking me is not an agenda,” responded Romney.
But on U.S. efforts to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability the two men seemed more in agreement than not.
The president defended his emphasis on sanctions to isolate Iran. “As long as I am President of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon," Obama stated. "I made that clear when I came into office. We then organized the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history and it is crippling their economy.”
Romney has been critical in the past, but was less so in the debate.
“I want to underscore the same point the president made, which is if I’m President of the United States, when I’m President of the United States, we will stand with Israel. And if Israel is attacked, we have their back, not just diplomatically, not just culturally, but militarily,” Romney noted.
On the uprising in Syria and the issue of whether there should be any U.S. military intervention to help the rebels, there was some common ground as well.
“For us to get more entangled militarily in Syria is a serious step,” said Obama.
“And finally, we don’t want to have military involvement there," Romney added. "We don’t want to get drawn in to a military conflict.”
There was a difference of opinion on relations with China, Romney talking a tougher line even as Obama spoke of his actions against Chinese tires and steel.
“China is both an adversary but also a potential partner in the international community if it’s following the rules,” stated Obama.
“That’s why on Day One I will label them a currency manipulator," Romney noted. "Which allows us to apply tariffs where they are taking jobs."
Throughout the debate, both candidates sought to link foreign policy questions to the strength of the U.S. economy.
“We’ve now begun to make some real progress. What we can’t do is go back to the same policies that got us into such difficulty in the first place," stated Obama. "That’s why we have to move forward and not go back.”
“I couldn’t agree more about going forward but I certainly don’t want to go back to the policies of the last four years. [There are] 23 million Americans still struggling to find a good job,” said Romney.
With two weeks to go until Election Day, two new national polls this week show the presidential race is a virtually a dead heat.
Watch the entire final debate: