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Tonight, Obama, Romney Take On Foreign Policy In Third And Final Debate

Crew work to put finishing touches on the stage a day ahead of the third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.
Jewel Samad
AFP/Getty Images
Crew work to put finishing touches on the stage a day ahead of the third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.

We've reached an important landmark in the presidential campaign: President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney face off tonight in the third and final presidential debate.

As was the case the last two times, the debate starts at 9 p.m. ET. This time, the venue is Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.

If you believe the snap polls, the first debate went to Romney, the second went to Obama, which means we have a 1-1 tie with just minutes to go in the fourth quarter. That is to say, we're just two weeks away from Nov. 6.

And that 1-1 tie in the debates is heightened by national polls that have this race virtually tied: The Real Clear Politics average gives Obama 47 percent of the popular vote and Romney 47.3 percent.

With that in mind, it's likely that tonight's debate, which is focused on foreign policy, will be just as fiery as the last one.

Just look at what Democrat Alex Sink, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in Florida, told Politico this morning:

"You don't see the wave of enthusiasm you saw four years ago, that's for sure. A lot of swing and Republican voters voted for Obama because they were not enamored of John McCain and thought it would be historically significant to elect the first black president. There's room to shave off a little of what we had four years ago and still win, but we're in the fight of our lives here."

The Washington Post reports that weeks ago, Obama was positively seen as the strongest candidate on foreign policy. A Pew Research poll, for example, found that at one point Americans gave Obama a 15 point advantage over Romney when asked who would do a better job on foreign policy. In the latest version of that poll, earlier this month, Pew found the gap had narrowed to four points.

The Post reports:

"Romney is likely to renew criticism of the Obama administration's reaction to a Sept. 11 attack that killed four Americans at a mission in Benghazi, Libya. And Obama also is likely to face questions about the civil war in Syria, a recent assassination in Lebanonand possible signals that Iran may be willing to bargain over the future of its nuclear program.

"The White House on Saturday denied a New York Times report that said the United States and Iran had agreed in principle to hold one-on-one talks about that program. The report said Iran wanted to wait until after the election for talks to begin."

Newsday rounded up topics they thought would likely be part of the debate. Libya and the Arab Spring will obviously be a focus. But the paper also points to the showdown with Iran over its nuclear program and "the rise of China."

Mark will be on hand to live blog the debate on the It's All Politics blog. All the major networks, including NPR, will carry live coverage of the debate.

We'll leave you with some reading material:

-- Five Debate-Worthy Facts About China (NPR)

-- Obama, Romney look for foreign policy edge in final debate (Fox News)

-- Where the public stands on foreign policy (Associated Press)

-- Shadow of Bush looms over foreign policy debate (Washington Post)

-- Romney debate strategy: Make corner office relevant to Oval Office (CNN)

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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