Foreign policy focus in last US debate
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will tangle over foreign policy in their final presidential debate tonight, with both candidates still looking for a breakout from a deadlocked White House campaign with just two weeks to run.
Mr Romney has closed the gap with the president, and the two candidates are now tied in the November 6th presidential race, according to a Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll released today.
The online survey of likely voters found both candidates were supported by 46 per cent of the electorate as they prepare for their final televised debate. Mr Romney trailed by 1 percentage point when the poll was last published on Saturday. The two candidates have remained within three percentage points of each other since shortly after their first debate on October 3rd.
However, Mr Obama still holds a substantial advantage in the battleground states that will determine the outcome of the election. Ipsos projects Mr Obama will carry hotly contested states such as Florida, Ohio and Virginia, for a relatively comfortable electoral college victory.
Tonight, Mr Romney will do his best in the 90-minute debate in Florida to minimise the president’s accomplishments and win the support of the small slice of undecided voters among the millions watching.
The former Massachusetts governor has been hitting Mr Obama hard on the administration’s changing explanations of what happened in last month’s attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where militants killed four Americans, including US ambassador Chris Stevens.
The Syria violence, Iran-Israel tensions, China, terrorism and the war winding down in Afghanistan are expected to come up in the final debate.
As the November 6th vote approaches, 41 of the 50 US states are essentially already decided, and the candidates are fighting over the remaining nine battleground states, including the critical Ohio and Florida.
The battleground states assume outsized importance because the presidency is decided in state-by-state contests, not by a national popular vote. The system can lead to a candidate winning the popular vote but losing the presidency, as former vice president Al Gore did in 2000.
With early and absentee voting already under way in many battleground states, including Ohio, North Carolina and Iowa, tight poll results indicate that the race could be decided by which campaign is best at getting supporters to the voting booth.
Mr Obama has ranked well with the public on his handling of international issues and in fighting terrorism, especially after the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
But the administration’s response to the Libya attack and questions over security at the Benghazi consulate have given Mr Romney an issue to question Obama’s foreign policy leadership.
The economy and other domestic issues remain the main focus of most voters and both campaigns.
Mr Romney claims Mr Obama has failed to tell Americans what he would do with a second four-year term. Mr Obama insists that Mr Romney is hiding details of his much-promoted plan to cut federal income tax rates.
The president says his opponent cannot make all the tax cuts he has proposed without adding to the deficit or shifting more of the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle class.
Mr Romney has also vowed to repeal the president’s health care reforms, but Mr Obama says the Republican has failed to say what he would do to replace the law that would provide health insurance to 30 million Americans who now have no coverage.