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For the third and final time, U.S. President Barack Obama and GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney will take center stage and face off tonight, with the showdown set for Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.
With the two candidates running neck-and-neck – a fresh NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows President Obama and Romney tied at 47% — and just 15 days until Americans cast their ballots for our 45th U.S. president, a stellar showing is imperative. Whoever wins Monday's debate will have the upper hand heading into Election Day.
More than 60 million viewers tuned in to the first two debates which dealt with jobs, healthcare, the economy, and taxes. Romney handily won the first debate in Denver on Oct. 3 and charmed hordes of undecided voters. Then the president, who appeared glum and uninterested the first time around, came on strong in the second debate Oct. 16.
Monday's debate will be focused on foreign policy and national security. Divided into six segments, President Obama and Romney will discuss America's position as a global leader, the Afghanistan war, the Middle East, Israel and Iran, and China's explosive rise.
President Obama, as head of U.S. national security for the last four years, has experience Romney can't rival. The president will underscore how under his term he was instrumental in the mission that led to the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden. He will also note that he pulled troops from Iraq.
Romney has his work cut out for him.
His summer trips to London, Jerusalem and Poland were highlighted by several gaffes. The former Massachusetts governor needs to assure voters that he is a capable leader in the global arena by highlighting his leadership abilities.
"Many voters are ready to fire President Obama if they see Romney as an acceptable alternative. Foreign policy has not been a big driver of this campaign but I think Romney could add some icing to his cake if people say, "Hey, this guy is on top of world affairs,'" David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Center at Southern Illinois University told Reuters.
Tonight's Final Presidential Debate: Foreign Policy
Romney is certain to bring up the deadly Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Team Romney has criticized comments made by Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, regarding the cause of the attack. It has also criticized the Obama administration's response to the attacks, which Congressional Republicans cite as symptomatic of larger leadership failings.
Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC, said on Fox News Sunday that "This is going to be a case study, studied for years, of a breakdown of national security at every level, failed presidential leadership-senior members of the Obama administration failed miserably."
There are several reasons to be wary of China, and President Obama and Romney are sure to discuss why.
As the world's second-largest economy that has grown at a staggering rate, the Asian nation continues to gain on the United States.
With a lack of transparency, currency manipulation, and trade and labor violations, China has failed to win over global trust. Romney has pledged to crackdown on Chinese polices if elected, but has not detailed how he plans to do that.
"He's [Obama] got to really pin Romney down on what he means by some of the things he's saying. What do you mean when you say you are going to get tough on China? How do you go about doing that?" Yepsen stressed.
The Obama administration and European Union expect negotiations between Iran and world powers to restart following the November elections. The focus will be on getting Tehran to give up more nuclear fuel in return for economic incentives.
Romney maintains he would pursue diplomacy with Iran. Like President Obama, Romney too would continue sanctions, but has not ruled out military force.
President Obama says Romney's policy risks a new war.
President Obama backs the steep spending cuts set to kick-in on Jan. 2 that will span the next decade, hitting the U.S. military and defense spending especially hard.
Conversely, Romney supports boosting military spending to 4% of GDP, reversing planned cuts to ground armed forces and the expansion of Navy shipbuilding.
President Obama needs to make it clear he has the confidence and drive to lead our country's security initiatives, especially after Secretary of State Hilary Clinton took blame for Libya, a move Republicans used against the president.
Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, told Fox News, "I think it's very laudable that she should throw herself under the bus. But first of all, responsibility for American security doesn't lie with the secretary of state. It lies with the president of the United States. It's either willful deception or a degree of incompetence and failure to understand fundamental facts on the ground. … Either one of those is obviously totally unacceptable."
Tune in to tonight's final presidential debate at 9 p.m. EDT.
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