Who Won the Presidential Debate Tonight: Candidates Banter and Banter to Little Avail


President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney will meet at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., at 9:00 p.m. EST on Monday. As with the last presidential debate, I'll be providing live GIF updates: all reaction, all the time. 

Get pumped, everyone.

Bob Schieffer will moderate the debate, set to focus exclusively on foreign policy issues (mostly topics concerning the Middle East).  Schieffer will ask the candidates about the ongoing war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, changes in the Middle East, and future threats facing the nation. 

The third and final presidential debate comes less than a week after the candidates met in the New York Town Hall debate, a “friendly Q&A conversation” with undecided voters, during which the candidates got offended (and offensive?).

The format of this debate is identical to the first presidential debate (which many believed was a consensus win for Romney). The topics go beyond recent debates over the Obama administration's handling of Benghazi to delve into starker differences between the candidates.

According to Third Way, the debate talking points will center around:

The Middle East and new forms of terrorism The wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan Israel and Iran The rise of China America's role in the world

Romney and Obama seem to largely agree on national security issues like the war in Iraq, U.S.-Pakistan relations, and the use of drones, but there are significant differences on other matters.

Paul Ryan and Joe Biden have already clashed over Afghanistan; Romney and Obama are expected to do the same tonight. Israel and Iran, particularly Iran's nuclear program, remain hot topics for debate. Romney has accused Obama of not doing enough for Israel, and not effectively dissuading Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Currently, Obama and Romney are in a statistical dead heat in national polling, with no clear frontrunner in election 2012. The two candidates will be looking to give themselves some added momentum in the polls, especially as this race has suddenly become one of the tightest in U.S. history.

We're all on the edge of our seats.

PolicyMic will be covering the final presidential debate in its entirety. Check back here for live GIF updates on the last debate! (Cause it's not fun if it's not animated.) Bookmark and refresh this page for the most recent updates.


12:20 p.m. Is the gender gap closing? 

Some pollsters say yes. The New York Time's Nate Silver says no.

"If only women voted, President Obama would be on track for a landslide re-election, equaling or exceeding his margin of victory over John McCain in 2008 ...If only men voted, Mr. Obama would be biding his time until a crushing defeat at the hands of Mitt Romney, who might win by a similar margin to the one Ronald Reagan realized over Jimmy Carter in 1980."

Last week's debate catered to "women's issues" like health care, reproductive rights, and economic issues which are particularly salient for women, like equal pay and affirmative action. The vice presidential debate the week before hit on the issue of abortion, which has once again been important for single-issue voters this election, particularly women.

As economic issues are placed in contrast to social issues (with the notable exception of Barack Obama's last debate speech about birth control coverage), women can expect more pitches on such topics, but likely will not hear them tonight.

3:45 p.m. What (feminist) foreign policy issues will go missing from tonight's debate? 

Do I expect the relationship between war and gender equality to come up at all tonight? 

But it should. At the Huffington Post, Soraya Chemaly lays out global phenomena of gendered violence.

"If you take one idea away from the year 2012 this should be this:

'The very best predictor of a state's peacefulness is not its level of wealth, its level of democracy, or its ethno-religious identity; the best predictor of a state's peacefulness is how well its women are treated. What's more, democracies with higher levels of violence against women are as insecure and unstable as nondemocracies.'

5:30 p.m. What other (feminist) foreign policy issues will fail to come up?

Food, glorious food ... security. 

Here at PolicyMic, Ben Goldfarb explains,

"Why is this topic worthy of discussion during a foreign policy debate? When crop prices become volatile, geopolitics shortly follow. Tonight, there’s sure to be talk of the Arab Spring, and how popular uprisings have facilitated the rise of hardline Islamic governments. What the candidates probably won’t mention is the role that food has played in these revolutions. The Tahrir Square protest, for example, didn’t begin its life as a movement against Hosni Mubarak –– it was initially backlash against the rising price of wheat.

Given that women and girls are more likely to go hungry across the globe, food security is a feminist matter of importance for men and women in America and in other nations. (Plus, obviously, a human matter of importance. There's a lot of overlap.)

7:45 p.m. Exclusive update on the gender gap from OFA's Stephanie Cutter!

Kudos to PolicyMic's Edward Williams for his exclusive interview with Stephanie Cutter, the Deputy Campaign Manager for Obama for America.  While tonight's debate is about foreign policy, Williams managed to ask her about gender and recent polling trends when it comes to the infamous "women bloc."

Edward: There is a significant gender gap in the polls, some which show that President Obama has been slipping among women. What should that be ascribed to?

Stephanie: Well, it depends on what poll you are looking at, every poll is a little bit different. There is an ABC poll coming out today that has us at a 14-point gender gap, we were only at 13 in the last election. There will be a gender gap on election day.

Edward: Yes, but what's causing the gender gap?

Stephanie: What's causing the gender gap is an agenda that actually moves women forward.

The first bill that the president signed was a pay equity bill. The president passed health care reform, which stops insurance companies from charging women more just because they have babies. He put an end to discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, which is incredibly important to women.

He has also made sure that they can make their own health care decisions, that we're not ceding it to any bureaucrat, particularly men. And, whether it's protecting Roe v. Wade, or ensuring they have access to contraception, all of this stands in sharp contrast to Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney would not say if he would sign the Lilly Ledbetter Act into law. He has promised to repeal health care reform, which puts the insurance companies back in charge. He wants to put bosses in charge of whether women have access to contraception. That's not an agenda that speaks to women and says 'I believe in you.' He's taking from them, and having a binder full of women is not a record of proof that you have helped women move forward.

8:20 p.m. So, if the economy is an issue for women in the 2012 election, and foreign policy is the issue for tonight's debate..

Then the logical overlap is women in the military — or rather, female veterans across the nation who are massively unemployed. Right?

At Media Matters, Lisa Reed reports:

The economy and national security have been two of the most significant issues facing the United States in recent weeks, and the intersection of those issues — veteran employment — should be an important component in media coverage of the economic recovery. But unlike much of America and their male counterparts, female veterans are suffering from a deteriorating employment situation — and the media are ignoring it.

... During the October 16 presidential town hall debate, right-wing media attacked a woman for asking about pay inequality between men and women. In response, Fox News even found opportunity to push more myths about the gender wage gap. In that context, it's no wonder media outlets have glossed over the glaring unemployment reality for female vets. Only until there is free, civilized discourse about the setbacks women face in the working world, can we truly start to deal with unemployment challenges for women who have served our country.

8:50 p.m. 10 minutes!

So ready. I was born ready.

9:00 p.m. Let's goooooooooooooooooo. 

9:08 p.m. Romney cites "gender equality" as a foreign policy issue.

Um, yes. Wasn't I saying that earlier today?

But how exactly is this reflected in his foreign policy? Or his domestic policy? Has Romney even uttered the words 'gender equality' before? Not in my recent memory...

9:11 p.m. Obama: "Romney’s foreign policy is from the ‘80s , his social policy is from the ‘50s, and his economic policy is from the ‘20s."

Oh snap.

I made this point in the last debate. When it comes to women domestically, Mitt Romney is not interested in policies that would lead to actual gender equality.

It's good that Mitt Romney knew that it was a problem that he didn't have as many female employees. It's good that he knows how important adequate employment is for women. And it's good that he recognizes that the burden of child care falls disproportionately on women in most cases. But his solution to these problems — a better economy for everyone — may not really get at the heart of what's causing these problems now, in the dismal economic state that we're in. These issues were issues before the recession. 

Obama has taken the first step in framing the issues as existing across several dimensions of both men and women's lives. But new and better policy to address said issues must follow. Both candidates need to carefully assess their policies when it comes to issues of gender equality. There is a fine line between describing the state of affairs as it is — economic and social issues currently impact people differently along gender lines — and perpetuating it. Both candidates need to push themselves to think of new solutions to these problems.

9:45 p.m. Obama sunk your battleship.

9:54 p.m. All the centrifuges are spinning, spinning wildly.

Romney slams Obama for the fact that the U.S. is "four years closer to a nuclear Iran."

9:58 p.m. Does anyone else notice how many shout-outs women have gotten in this debate?

Hmm. Might this have something to do with that gender gap I mentioned before? Is that why both candidates keep emphasizing how important education is for women abroad? Or just women abroad more generally?

I'm really tempted to make a broad/abroad joke here. Any ideas?

10:11 p.m. The drone wars!

It's not surprising that Obama and Romney have essentially the same position on drones. And according to Pew, 62% of Americans agree with them. Many of the drone supporters are Republicans, but Democrats and independents agree.

10:13 p.m. Again with the women.