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Obama makes it 2 out of 3

Instant polls declare president winner of the final debate - on foreign policy, which has been his strongest point. Yashwant Raj reports.

india Updated: Oct 24, 2012 01:52 IST
Yashwant Raj

President Barack Obama attacked Republican challenger Mitt Romney for being reckless and "all over the map" during their foreign policy debate Monday night.

Romney hit back accusing the president of relinquishing US leadership of the world, and sought to veer the debate towards his favourite attack line: Obama has failed on economy.

He really didn't have many disagreements with the president's foreign policy, prompting an expert to wisecrack that in another 30 minutes Romney would have endorsed Obama.

"Unlike past debates, Mitt Romney agreed with the president far more often than we heard in the first two debates," said Mitchell S McKinney, who has studied president debates.

Though both campaigns claimed victory expectedly, two snap polls gave the debate to President Obama - 48% to 40% by CNN and 53% to 23% by CBS news network.

The overall score for the three debates: Obama 2, Romney 1.

The president went on the offensive from the start and stayed so through the debate, forcing Romney at times to look very much like how Obama had in the first debate.

"I'm glad that you agree that we have been successful in going after al Qaeda, but I have to tell you that your strategy previously has been one that has been all over the map," said Obama in his first remarks.

Obama attacked Romney for calling Russia the Number 1 foe. "The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War has been over for 20 years."

Romney punched back a little later. "And attacking me is not an agenda," he said during an exchange on how to deal with challenges and opportunities on West Asia.

But Romney was nowhere near his attacking best, which he was during the first debate. He seemed withdrawn, and sat stiffly gazing at the president when he spoke.

He showed flashes of his attacking style when speaking on the economy: "(When) Ahmadinejad says that our debt makes us not a great country, that's a frightening thing."

But for most parts he agreed with the president: on the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, dealing with Syria and the rebels and on what to do with Iran.

"The reason Romney did not differ much from the president on these issues is that foreign policy is not Romney's strong suit," said Marc Hetherington of Vanderbilt University.

President ahead
Obama pulled slightly ahead of Romney in a Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll on Tuesday.

Obama led Romney among likely voters by a statistically insignificant margin of 1 percentage point - 47% to 46%. The full impact of the final debate, however, will not register for several days.