Published October 22, 2012
Seven things to watch for when President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney debate foreign policy Monday night:
1. THE TIEBREAKER: Romney ran away with the first. Obama came back strong in the second. Stakes are high for their third and final showdown. Does that mean a repeat of last week's ornery tone? Or will the gravity of the issues — war, terrorism, world leadership — inspire more dignified discourse?
2. REMATCH ON LIBYA: It sparked one of the hottest exchanges of the second debate. And there's more to it than when Obama called the consulate attack an "act of terror." Expect to hear about failed security, intelligence lapses and the Obama administration's shifting account of what happened in Libya. After Obama's parry last week, Romney gets another try.
3. ROMNEY'S TEST: The former governor and businessman has limited foreign experience. He took hits for comments that ruffled British and Palestinian leaders last summer, and for hastening to criticize the administration's response even as chaotic events were unfolding in Libya and Egypt. This debate is the prime moment for Romney to display the knowledge and judgment to lead on the world stage.
4. ON DEFENSE: Obama must defend four years of foreign policy. Expect Romney to accuse the president of weakening America's world leadership by mishandling Iran's nuclear ambitions, the pullout from Afghanistan, the Syrian conflict and the U.S. relationship with Israel. Can Obama rebut that criticism and focus on ending the Iraq War and killing Osama bin Laden?
5. OPERATION FAST & FURIOUS: Before there was the attack on Libya, there was Operation Fast & Furious, a gun-walking operation run by the Buereau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) between 2006 and 2011 that funneled weapons to Mexican cartels in an attempt to ultimately track down cartel leaders. Guns tracked by the ATF have been found at crime scenes throughout much of Mexico and the scene of murdered Border Agent Brian Terry. The operation was run in both the Bush and Obama administrations. Republicans have blamed the president and his Attorney General Eric Holder for having knowledge of the operation, a charge both of them deny.
6. IMMIGRATION/LATIN AMERICA: The debate is taking place in Florida, a key battleground state where the Latino vote looms large. Much was said about immigration in the second debate but only after a specific question was posed by a town hall participant. It will be interesting to see if on Monday the immigration topic will be woven into the conversation. Also, the rise of China will surely be spoken about in some respect, but how about the importance of Latin America? The drug war, trade deals, Venezuela, and Cuba are open for debate.
7. A NEW MEME? First Big Bird. Then "binders full of women." Watch Twitter to see whether another phrase catches fire while the debaters are still onstage.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.