Mitt Romney and Barack Obama met on Monday night for the final debate before the election. The showdown in Boca Raton, hosted by Bob Schieffer of CBS, was supposed to focus exclusively on foreign policy, though both candidates frequently took the opportunity to pivot to discussions of the U.S. economy.
In contrast to previous debates, Romney was relatively muted in his criticism of the president's record, declining to criticize his handling of the Benghazi consulate attack. Romney did repeat his claim that the president had gone on an "apology tour" of the Middle East following his election, argued that Iran is now "four years closer to a nuclear weapon," and described proposed cuts to the military budget as "devastating."
Obama accused Romney of changing his positions on intervention in Libya and withdrawal from Afghanistan, and joked that the Republican candidate wants to "import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s, and the economic policies of the 1920s."
CNN viewers gave a slight edge to the more aggressive Obama in post-debate polls.
The Powell doctrine
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Obama in an interview with CBS Thursday. "I signed on for a long patrol with President Obama," said the former general, who had attracted attention by crossing party lines to endorse the president in 2008. Expressing concern with Romney's shifting positions on foreign policy, Powell said, "Sometimes I don't sense that he has thought through these issues as thoroughly as he should have."
Former New Hampshire governor Romney campaign surrogate John Sununu caused controversy on Thursday night by saying that Powell supports Obama because he is African-American. I think when you have somebody of your own race that you're proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him," Sununu told CNN's Piers Morgan. Sununu later issued a statement saying that he doesn't doubt Powell's endorsed was "based on anything but his support of the president's policies."
Rice on Benghazi
The Obama campaign got an assist from both of George W. Bush's secretaries of state this week, with Condoleezza Rice downplaying Republican attacks on the Obama administration's handling of diplomatic security prior to the Benghazi attack. "It is not very easy in circumstances like this to know precisely what's going on as it's unfolding," she said in an interview with Fox's Greta Van Susteren. "There are protocols in place, I have no reason to believe they weren't followed, but it is not very easy in circumstances like this to know precisely what's going on as it's unfolding."
Reuters reported this week that the White House had received emails hours after the Benghazi attack saying that an Islamist militant group had claimed credit, though it now appears those emails may have been inaccurate. The Senate Intelligence committee has scheduled hearings into the attacks for several days after the election.
The third-party factor
Libertarian party candidate Gary Johnson launched his first television ad this week, touting his dovish foreign policy. The ads, which will run in several states in the mountain west, feature a menacing-looking drone and the former New Mexico governor describing himself as the "only candidate who does not want to bomb Iran." The ads follow Johnson's performance at a third-party candidates' debate on Tuesday in which he pledged to reduce military spending by 43 percent. Johnson, along with fellow third-party candidate Virgil Goode of the Constitution party, could be a factor in the battleground state of Nevada, where they have combined support of around 7 percent according to recent polls.
Who would the world vote for?
A BBC poll of 21,797 people in 21 countries shows 50 percent supporting Obama, with only 9 percent for Romney. France was the most pro-Obama country, with 72 percent support. The only country where voters preferred Romney was Pakistan, likely due to opposition to the Obama administration's drone attacks. Romney also enjoyed significant levels of support in Poland and in Obama's father's homeland, Kenya.
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