The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

5 things to watch at Boca prez debate

21

October

The final two weeks of the 2012 campaign kick off Monday night in Boca Raton with the last presidential debate — focused on foreign policy.

Foreign affairs have largely been an afterthought in this marathon campaign overwhelmingly dominated by the economy, and the debate offers both candidates what is likely their last big moment to persuade voters they offer greater leadership.

In some respects President Barack Obama should have the advantage. He is the incumbent who, as promised, ended the war in Iraq, ordered the mission that killed Osama bin Laden, and according to most polls, enjoys more trust among voters on foreign policy than Republican nominee Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor has stumbled several times on foreign policy, but without a record to defend, he has more flexibility to pick and choose what issues to focus on.

More than 60 million viewers may tune in at 9 p.m. for a debate that truly could decide the presidency. Not surprisingly, the location is Florida.

Here are five things to watch:

1. Domestic policy. Yes, it's a debate focused on foreign policy, and moderator Bob Schieffer intends to divide the 90 minutes into six segments: America's role in the world, Afghanistan, Israel and Iran, the changing Middle East, terrorism and China's rise.

But the economy remains the overriding issue in this race, and it's hard to imagine Obama and Romney failing to return to domestic policy over and over again. On this, both nominees agree: America's position and strength in the world starts with its strength at home.

2. Leadership. Voters are unlikely to be moved significantly by slight variations in how Romney or Obama will handle Pakistan or North Korea, but they can be moved by perceptions of leadership. Romney tightened the race into a dead heat after two debates where he reassured soft supporters and undecided voters that he is a palatable alternative to President Obama, and his challenge is to do that again when the topics are mainly outside his comfort zone....

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[Last modified: Sunday, October 21, 2012 8:39pm]

    

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