Candidates agree often in final debate
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 01:10
In the final presidential debate of the season Monday night, rather than clearly define their own stances and policies, both President Barack Obama and former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney agreed more often than they disagreed on American foreign policy.
The debate, which took place at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla, and was moderated by Bob Schieffer, CBS host of “Face the Nation,” was the candidates’ last chance to address issues and possibly capture the undecided vote before the election Nov. 6.
The topic of foreign policy allowed the candidates to address important issues such as national security, nuclear issues with Iran, international trade and the attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
Susan MacManus, professor of political science and political analyst, said the debate covered relevant issues in terms of foreign policy.
“It took us to all the hot spots of the world and potential security threats,” she said.
Though the debate centered on foreign policy issues, MacManus said the issues were highly relevant in a state in which there are a large number of immigrants, brushes with terrorism and international trade is a large factor in the economy.
“There are some issues that are clearly of interest to folks in Florida,” she said. “It’s very likely that the person who is seen as winning in Florida is the candidate who can relate how these issues relate to the economy in Florida.”
The candidates tried to woo voters with proof of leadership in issues ranging from the conflict in Syria to the tense relations with Israel.
Obama emphasized that no matter the situation, the U.S. needs “strong, steady leadership, not wrong reckless leadership,” citing how his administration has handled international crises in Libya, Iran, Afghanistan and Syria.
“The central question is who’s going to be credible for all parties involved… and they can look at my track record,” Obama said. “They can say that the president of the United States and the United States of America has stood on the right side of history.”
Romney said he could present a better option “when he is president” in terms of foreign relations.
“I want to see peace… We have the opportunity to have real leadership,” Romney said. “Our purpose is to make the world more peaceful... We’ll make the world a safer place.”
The candidates touched on the issue of international trade, including relations with China and Romney’s brief mentions of the economic possibilities of relations with Latin America, but both retuned to domestic issues, asserting a strong U.S. internationally starts at home.
“I absolutely believe that America has the responsibility and the privilege to defend freedom,” Romney said. “America must be strong, America must lead… and for that to happen, America must strengthen the economy here at home.”
Romney and Obama both agreed the U.S. should not keep an overseas presence in Syria, despite rising turmoil and surmounting international pressures.
“For us to get more entangled militarily in Syria is a serious step and we had to do so knowing what we are doing is helping,” Obama said.
Romney agreed with Obama in regards to the specific use of U.S. military power in Syria if conflict escalates.
“I don’t want to have our military involved in Syria. I don’t think there is a necessity at this stage…and I don’t anticipate that in the future,” Romney said.
Unlike the two previous debates, both candidates maintained better composure, with less interrupting of the moderator and each other.
Evan Eastman, a senior majoring in finance and economics and an Independent, said the debate seemed more tepid than previous ones.
“I was really hoping to see some of the sparks from the second debate, they both seemed to be vague and didn’t attack what they could’ve,” he said. “I think that kind of left a bitter taste in probably a lot of people’s mouths, I don’t think people got what they wanted to hear.”
Some viewers may have responded better to the simmered-down tone of this debate though, MacManus said.
“The tone was much less combative, which was a good thing. Each candidate was striving to be more statesman-like. We knew it would come full circle,” MacManus said. “There are people who are really trying to get in informed.”
But some, like Eastman, remained frustrated because neither candidate seemed to stand out with his own policies.
“Obama reverted back to he-said-she-said, not where we are today or where we are going in the future…It wasn’t a plan for the next four years abroad,” Eastman said. ‘And (Romney) did not hammer Libya and Obama… This could have been the opportunity for Romney to ask the president all the questions Americans have been wondering.”
But the candidates, MacManus said, were likely pandering to the same set of moderate voters, thus eliminating a need for much differentiation.
“It was clear that they were both aiming at the same demographic votes,” she said. “We are in the final days of the election.”