All eyes will be on Monday's third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. There has long been a feeling among serious politicos that debates are a rote exercise, more about pomp and plumage than specific policies. We are also routinely told that debates don’t matter, that arguments good or bad tend to entrench our beliefs rather than sway them. If this has been the rule, the 2012 election cycle is a profound exception.
After Romney’s infamous “47%” debacle, observers were speculating that even Karl Rove would, palm to face, redirect his Super PAC money from Romney’s bid to more winnable Senate races. Now, Romney has a slight edge over Obama in the popular vote according to the Real Clear Politics poll of polls. If either candidate secures as obvious a win as Romney’s first, tonight may well prove decisive. Amid a Supreme Court stuffed with septuagenarians, an economic recovery sputtering under Congressional obstruction, and health care reform just kicking into effect, even the most cynical or apathetic among us concede that there’s a lot on the line.
Foreign policy is rarely a campaign centerpiece, but Romney has been trying hard to focus people on Obama’s “projection of weakness” abroad. This is a bit strange considering Obama’s immense popularity with our allies. Obama gave a speech in Arabic in the beginning of his term; Romney’s still struggling to understand why the British don’t like to be insulted by him. Be that as it may, there are some compelling issues we’re likely to encounter tonight:
1) Iran. Romney is likely to claim that Obama’s failure to be “tougher” on Iran (whatever that means) will destabilize the Middle East, while Obama will counter that his sanction regime has gotten Tehran to agree to negotiations on the subject. American superiority is a big issue for the Republican base, but Romney’s hawkish leanings might remind Americans a little too much of a president we don’t hear about much anymore...
2) Libya. Is Obama responsible for the four American deaths in Libya, or can we chalk it up to the Republican cheapskates in Congress? One would hope that politicizing a tragedy is beneath the would-be rulers of the free world. But we know better than that.
3) Israel. In the words of Joe Biden, “No one is a better friend to Israel than Joe Biden.” In the wake of recent rocket attacks staged in the Gaza Strip, Romney will likely accuse Obama of not playing nice with Israeli Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu. Obama will point out that he’s shared plenty of toys: about 3 billion dollars worth.
The debate starts at 9:00PM EST and will be moderated by Bob Schieffer of CBS news. Let’s hope he’s not phased by the Romney steam roller, or afraid to check the facts.
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Update: You can now watch the whole debate from my very own blog, so you never have to leave!!
UPDATE (9:10): It looks like Mitt Romney's wearing the red tie tonight, which according to my advanced statistical model, gives him a distinct edge.
UPDATE (9:13): Obama calls out Romney for wanting policies from the 1950's. Romney's response: "Gee willikers! It's bonkers to think a fella' like me has old timey beliefs!"
UPDATE (9:18): Courtesy of reddit, here is Romney, if he loses the debate
UPDATE (9:21): If we had a candidate on stage that didn't pass the "donor test," we might be talking about how Obama began military operations in Libya without democratic Congressional approval.
UPDATE (9:28): The beautiful Kate Rui has pointed out the video above is actually a debate preview, here is the actual video
UPDATE (9:30): Romney brilliantly points out that Iran's PM, Ahmadinejad, says debt is America's major economic problem. Who wouldn't want to take economic advice from the guy presiding over this economy?
UPDATE (9:37): "I will put us on track to balancing the budget by *cough*cough*cough*cough*, which will also create good jobs for everyone, for free. And small businesses something something... You guys got that, right?" -Mitt Romney
UPDATE (9:40): HAHAHAHAHA Mitt Romney loves talking over moderators. He looks like Jason Batemen with that smile. Obama also seems like a sociopath, but more of the Dexter variety. P.S. Neither of them have talked about foreign policy for about 10 minutes.
UPDATE (9:45): Obama brings up the good point that we have a serious lack of horses in our army. We will never return to our former glory until we reanimate the corpse of Teddy Roosevelt and bring back the Rough Riders
UPDATE (9:55): Iran is spinning subterfuges to hide the fact that they are spinning centrifuges... It would have been cool if someone said that, but instead Romney just forgot the difference between subterfuges and centrifuges
UPDATE (10:07): Mitt Romney still afraid of an increasingly helpless Russia. He also argues that we need a president that projects as much strength as his hair gel.
UPDATE (10:12): Romney shows a good command of issues surrounding Pakistan and Afghanistan. He and Obama are agreeing in a big way on how to deal with Pakistan. Unfortunately, this is basically their policy:
UPDATE (10:17): Obama calls China an adversary. Yeah, how dare they make our stuff for us for really, really cheap!! Does this mean Obama is opposed to trade? Or opposed to foreign investment?
UPDATE (10:24): Glad to hear Obama finally defending the role of government: "Basic research is something the private sector has never done." Romney's love of the private sector borders on the erotic.
Romney is also talking about how he would never liquidate American industries. And he definitely didn't build his career on doing that.
UPDATE (10:36): IT'S OVER. Everyone listen to Bob Schieffer's mother and get out there and vote, once you're done watching every one on stage awkwardly touch each other on the small of the back.