The Republican coolly responded, "Attacking me is not an agenda" for dealing with a dangerous world.
<< VIDEO: Watch the debate again
POLLS: Who Won?
HEAR HARDWICK: and other analysts on WBEN Tuesday morning.
What They Said
Buffalo's Early News- In Studio, In Depth:
Canisius College Political Science Professor Kevin Hardwick joins John Zach & Susan Rose for a recap & related commentary.
|On The WBEN Liveline||Ted Lina, St. Jos. Collegiate Inst||Dave Levinthal, Politico.com|
SHARE YOUR COMMENTS: Facebook.com/WBEN930 OR At The Bottom of This Page
But CNN Says: Not that it mattered.
Forty-eight percent of registered voters who watched Monday night's third presidential debate say that Obama won the showdown, with 40% saying Romney did , according to a CNN Poll.
But the poll, conducted right after Monday night's faceoff also indicates that the debate may be a draw when it comes to whether it will affect the choice of voters who watched the showdown, and Romney held his own with the president on the commander-in-chief test.
READ MORE from CNN
Immediately after it wrapped, 53 percent of the more than 500 voters polled gave the foreign policy-themed debate to Mr. Obama; 23 percent said Romney won, and 24 percent felt the debate was a tie. Uncommitted voters in similar polls gave the first debate to Romney by a large margin, but said Mr. Obama edged the GOP nominee in the second debate.
Both candidates enjoyed a bump regarding whom the voters trust to handle international crisis. Before the debate, 46 percent said they would trust Romney, and 58 percent said they would trust the president. Those numbers spiked to 49 percent and 71 percent, respectively.Overwhelmingly, the same group of voters said President Obama would do a better job than Romney on terrorism and national security, 64 percent to 36 percent. But they were evenly split, 50-50, on which candidate would better handle China.
The "uncommitted voters" polled are voters who are either undecided about who to vote for or who say they could still change their minds.
This CBS News poll was conducted online using GfK's web-enabled KnowledgePanel?, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 521 uncommitted voters who have agreed to watch the debate. Uncommitted voters are those who don't yet know who they will vote for, or who have chosen a candidate but may still change their minds.
GfK's KnowledgePanel participants are initially chosen scientifically by a random selection of telephone numbers and residential addresses. Persons in selected households are then invited by telephone or by mail to participate in the web-enabled KnowledgePanel?. For those who agree to participate, but do not already have Internet access, GfK provides at no cost a laptop and ISP connection.
This is a scientifically representative poll of uncommitted voters' reaction to the presidential debate. The margin of sampling error could be plus or minus 4percentage points for results based on the entire sample
ANALYSIS from the Associated Press's Charles Babington
Republican Mitt Romney is acting like a challenger who feels he has enough momentum and time to overtake the president by Election Day, two weeks from now.
Judging from Monday's final debate, President Barack Obama almost seems to agree.
Romney's approach was one typically taken by front-runners: First, do no harm. Don't stir the pot. Keep the clock running.
Obama's forcefulness appeared chiefly aimed at discouraged Democrats who might not bother voting, rather than at the sliver of undecided voters in the handful of states still in play. Romney is not the benign, acceptable alternative he claims to be, Obama seemed to be saying, and I, your president, am finally willing to fight tooth and nail for a second term after sleepwalking through the first debate, which triggered Romney's rise in the polls.
"It's all get-out-the-vote now," said Matt Bennett, a veteran of Democratic campaigns. "If you're undecided now, you ain't voting."
"Obama will win the debate on points," Bennett said, "but it won't matter much."
A number of other Democrats shared that view. Interest in the third and final debate probably suffered, they said, from voter fatigue, competition from televised football and baseball games, and the official topic - foreign policy - in a campaign dominated by jobs and the economy.
These Democrats, however, don't necessarily think Obama will lose. Some feel Romney took a big gamble by being so tame in the final face-to-face encounter.
Obama still holds a slight edge in Ohio in most independent polls. It's the state that can almost seal the president's re-election if he holds it, because it would force Romney to sweep virtually every other contested state, including tough Wisconsin.
Romney's stay-the-course demeanor Monday points to confidence that his slight rise in the polls will continue, even if only a smidgen of voters are truly undecided. Democrats note that many thousands of people are already voting through early balloting programs in key states.
The election's outcome may turn on whether Obama's get-out-the-vote ground troops can outrun Romney's momentum. Polls show Romney doing considerably better among likely voters, as opposed to registered voters. That gives Obama's volunteers a chance to hunt down thousands of "soft supporters," and persuade them to get to a polling place.
From the debate's opening minutes, Romney showed no appetite for verbal fisticuffs. Moderator Bob Schieffer invited the former Massachusetts governor to critique Obama's handling of the fatal attack on a U.S. Consulate in Libya, a topic Romney had fumbled in the second debate, six days ago.
Romney showed no interest. Instead, he congratulated the president on the killing of Osama bin Laden, hoping to negate an Obama strong point as quickly as possible.
Throughout the evening, Romney continued a recent trend of moderating his foreign policy positions. He seemed bent on presenting himself as a sound commander in chief, even if it required him to narrow his differences with the president.
Romney offered unusual praise for Obama's war efforts in Afghanistan, declaring the 2010 surge of 33,000 U.S. troops a success and asserting that efforts to train Afghan security forces are on track to enable the U.S. and its allies to put the Afghans fully in charge of security by the end of 2014.
Romney said U.S. forces should complete their withdrawal on that schedule. Previously he has criticized the setting of a specific withdrawal date.
And on Iran, Romney mollified his previous criticism of Obama's sanctions policy. He stressed that resorting to war to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon would be a last option, softening the hawkish tone that had been a hallmark of his campaign.
Longtime GOP strategist Terry Holt defended Romney's soft touch.
"His first goal is to appear presidential," Holt said. "This is not a grand jury where all he has to do is indict. People are looking to him for presidential qualities. Cool, calm and clear."
Obama, by contrast, looked for every chance to criticize Romney on as many topics as possible.
"Governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s," Obama said.
He chided Romney for having said Russia was America's greatest geopolitical foe. "The Cold War's been over for 20 years," Obama said.
"Presidents always have an advantage when debating foreign policy," said Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak. "Romney did well enough tonight to maintain his momentum and win this race."
Obama has 14 days to stop that momentum. He plunges in immediately Tuesday with events in Delray Beach, Fla., and Dayton, Ohio. On Wednesday and Thursday the president plans to campaign in Iowa, Colorado, California, Nevada, Florida, Virginia and Ohio.
Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, on Tuesday were headed to Nevada and Colorado. Romney planned to campaign Wednesday in Nevada and Iowa, and Thursday and Friday in Ohio.
Neither ticket can afford to write off the other competitive states. But Ohio seems destined to be the testing ground of whether Obama's tiny lead and big ground operation can hold off Romney's October momentum.
|The presidential candidates sparred over China during a debate on foreign policy Monday but as usual the focus was less on the Asian giant's rise as a world power than its impact on the American economy.|
|Bob Schieffer took a light hand Monday as moderator of the final presidential debate, ending with advice from his mother: "Go vote. It makes you feel big and strong."|
|President Barack Obama countered Mitt Romney's Big Bird and binders on Monday night with horses, bayonets and Battleship. Who won? The Internet, of course.|
|Voters watching the final presidential debate at home may have missed what happened before and after President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney took the stage on Monday.|
|President Barack Obama sharply challenged Mitt Romney on foreign policy in their final campaign debate Monday night, accusing him of "wrong and reckless leadership that is all over the map." The Republican coolly responded, "Attacking me is not an agenda" for dealing with a dangerous world.|
|President Barack Obama is pushing back on rival Mitt Romney's suggestion that the president has apologized for the United States on the world stage. Obama called the accusation the "biggest whopper" of the campaign.|
|President Barack Obama says published reports that the United States and Iran are planning to meet one-on-one after the election are "not true."|
|President Barack Obama says the United States will stand with Israel if it's attacked.|
|Presidents Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney are shifting their debate on foreign policy toward domestic issues that are foremost on voters' minds.|
|President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney are outlining different visions of the U.S. role in the world.|
ROMNEY: "The policies of the last four years have seen incomes in America decline every year for middle income families, now down $4,300 during your term. Twenty-three million Americans still struggling to find a good job.
When you came to office, 32 million people on food stamps. Today, 47 million people on food stamps. When you came to office, just over $10 trillion in debt, now $16 trillion in debt. It hasn't worked. You said by now we'd be at 5.4 percent unemployment. We're 9 million jobs short of that."
A May study by the Maryland-based research firm Sentier Research did find that real median American income in March was down by $4,300 since January 2009, when Mr. Obama took office.
The national debt was at $10.6 trillion when President Obama took office, reports CBS News' Mark Knoller, and in September it passed the $16 trillion mark for the first time in American history.
Mr. Obama did not make the claim himself that he would lower unemployment to 5.4 percent. However, in a report issued in January 2009 -- right before Mr. Obama took office -- his economic advisers wrote that his proposed economic stimulus package could bring unemployment down to 5.4 percent by the third quarter of 2012. Without the stimulus, they predicted 6 percent unemployment.
ROMNEY: "I said that we would provide guarantees, and that was what was able to allow these (auto) companies to go through bankruptcy, to come out of bankruptcy. Under no circumstance would I do anything other than to help this industry get on its feet. And the idea that has been suggested that I would liquidate the industry. Of course not. That's the height of silliness. I have never said I would liquidate the industry."
OBAMA: "Gov. Romney, you keep on trying to airbrush history here. You were very clear that you would not provide government assistance to the U.S. auto companies, even if they went through bankruptcy. You said that they could get it in the private marketplace. That wasn't true. They would have gone through a liquidation."THE FACTS: It's true that Romney didn't preach liquidation of GM and Chrysler and that he saw his approach as a way to save the auto companies. But his was an improbable course. Opposing a government bailout,
Romney instead favored private loans to finance the automakers' restructuring in bankruptcy court. His proposed government loan guarantees would only have come after the companies went through bankruptcy.
At the time, however, both automakers were nearly out of cash and were bad credit risks. The banking system was in crisis and private money wasn't available. So without hefty government aid, the assets of both companies probably would have been sold in liquidation auctions.
ROMNEY: Said that when he was Massachusetts governor, high-school students who graduated in the top quarter "got a four-year, tuition-free ride at any Massachusetts public institution of higher learning."
OBAMA: "That happened before you came into office."
ROMNEY: "That was actually mine, actually, Mr. President. You got that fact wrong."
THE FACTS: Romney was right. The John and Abigail Adams scholarship program began in 2004 when he was governor.
Romney: "When there were dissidents in the streets of Tehran, a Green Revolution, holding signs saying, is America with us, the president was silent. I think they noticed that as well."
In 2009, Iranians took to the streets to protest the reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - a dissident movement that was dubbed the "Green Revolution." Romney accused Mr. Obama of standing by, silent and idle, while the Ayatollahs and their security apparatus in Tehran efficiently and brutally routed the democratic protestors.
Romney's accusation that the president was "silent" does not stand up to scrutiny. In fact, just three days after the first reports of unrest in Iran, Mr. Obama spoke out at a press conference, explaining, "When I see violence directed at peaceful protestors, when I see peaceful dissent being suppressed, wherever that takes place, it is of concern to me and it's of concern to the American people. That is not how governments should interact with their people....I stand strongly with the universal principle that people's voices should be heard and not suppressed."
However, the president stopped short of expressing full solidarity with the Iranian protestors or explicitly supporting the reformist candidate in the disputed election, Mir Hossein Mousavi, explaining, "There are people who want to see greater openness and greater debate and want to see greater democracy. How that plays out over the next several days and several weeks is something ultimately for the Iranian people to decide."
This cautious approach echoed the president's prior insistence that it is not America's role to dictate to the Iranian people their political future: "I want them to know that we in the United States do not want to make any decisions for the Iranians, but we do believe that the Iranian people and their voices should be heard and respected."
It was this cautious approach that Romney attacked during the third debate, implying that, were he president, he would have voiced more full-throated support for the Green Revolution and the protestors demonstrating against the Iranian regime. Crucially, however, it is not at all clear that an American president siding with the democratic protestors in the Green Revolution would have strengthened the opposition to the Ahmadinejad government. In fact, the opposite might be true - the stamp of American approval on the Green Revolution may well have branded the movement as an American puppet, beholden to outside interests who are working to destabilize the Iranian regime.
The leaders of the Green Revolution labored to portray their movement as a grassroots, organic force working to change Iranian society from within. Iranian Journalist Omid Memerian, writing for the Daily Beast, argued that open support from an American president would have dashed this painstaking stagecraft to bits."For more than three decades, the Iranian regime has accused political dissidents of being American pawns as an excuse to suppress them," explained, Memerian. "If President Obama had publicly supported the pro-democracy protesters, he would have played right into the regime's hands. The movement would have lost its authenticity in the eyes of a wide range of supporters, irrespective of class, ethnicity, or political beliefs."
OBAMA: "What we also have been able to do is position ourselves so we can start rebuilding America... Doing everything we can to control our own energy. We've cut our oil imports to the lowest level in two decades because we've developed oil and natural gas. "
Oil imports can be measured in at least two ways - net imports (total imports minus exports) or as total imports. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) states, "[N]et-imports...gives a clearer indication of the fraction of oil consumed that could not have been supplied from domestic sources and is thus the most appropriate measure."John Cogan, spokesman for the EIA told CBS News in September, "If we look at net imports for the first seven months of 2012 it is 7,839,000 barrels per day and the last time we saw the figure at that level, on an annual rate of imports, was in 1993 when it was 7,618,000 barrels per day."
ROMNEY on SYRIA: "What I'm afraid of is we've watched over the past year or so, first the president saying, `Well, we'll let the U.N. deal with it.' And Assad - excuse me, Kofi Annan - came in and said we're going to try to have a cease-fire. That didn't work. Then it went to the Russians and said, `Let's see if you can do something.' We should be playing the leadership role there."
OBAMA: "We are playing the leadership role."
THE FACTS: Under Obama, the United States has taken a lead in trying to organize Syria's splintered opposition, even if the U.S. isn't interested in military intervention or providing direct arms support to the rebels. The administration has organized dozens of meetings in Turkey and the Middle East aimed at rallying Syria's political groups and rebel formations to agree on a common vision for a democratic future after Syrian President Bashar Assad is defeated. And Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton brought dozens of nations together as part of the Friends of Syria group to combine aid efforts to Syria's opposition and help it win the support of as many as Syrians as possible. The U.S. also is involved in vetting recipients of military aid from America's Arab allies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Romney is partly right in pointing out Obama's failure to win U.N. support for international action in Syria. But the Friends of Syria group has helped bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid and other forms of assistance to Syrian civilians and the political opposition.
OBAMA: "Governor Romney, I'm glad that you recognize that al Qaeda is a threat, because a few months ago when you were asked what's the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia, not al Qaeda; you said Russia, in the 1980s, they're now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War's been over for 20 years...
"You say that you're not interested in duplicating what happened in Iraq. But just a few weeks ago, you said you think we should have more troops in Iraq right now..."
ROMNEY: "Well, of course I don't concur with what the president said about my own record and the things that I've said. They don't happen to be accurate... First of all, Russia, I indicated, is a geopolitical foe... It's a geopolitical foe, and I said in the same -- in the same paragraph I said, and Iran is the greatest national security threat we face.
Romney did say in a March interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer that Russia is "without question our number one geopolitical foe." He did mention Iran after a follow-up question from Blitzer. Here's the relevant section of the interview:
ROMNEY: ... In the new START treaty, as well as [Obama's] decision to withdraw missile defense sites from - from Poland and then reduce our missile defense sites in Alaska from the original plan, I mean these are very unfortunate developments.
As for Romney's remarks on Iraq, he did reference in a speech this month at the Virginia Military Institute the Obama administration's failed attempts to reach a deal with the Iraqi government to keep some U.S. troops there.Romney said in that speech, "In Iraq the costly gains made by our troops are being eroded by rising violence, a resurgent al Qaeda, the weakening of democracy in Baghdad and the rising influence of Iran.
And yet America's ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence. The president's tried, he tried, but he also failed to secure a responsible and gradual drawdown that would have better secured our gain"
ROMNEY: "Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We're now at under 285. We're headed down to the low 200s if we go through a sequestration. That's unacceptable to me. I want to make sure that we have the ships that are required by our Navy. Our Air Force is older and smaller than at any time since it was founded in 1947.
"We've changed for the first time since FDR -- since FDR we had the -- we've always had the strategy of saying we could fight in two conflicts at once. Now we're changing to one conflict. Look, this, in my view, is the highest responsibility of the President of the United States, which is to maintain the safety of the American people.
"And I will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars, which is a combination of the budget cuts the president has, as well as the sequestration cuts. That, in my view, is making -- is making our future less certain and less secure."
"You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.
"And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we're counting ships. It's what are our capabilities. And so when I sit down with the Secretary of the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we determine how are we going to be best able to meet all of our defense needs in a way that also keeps faith with our troops, that also makes sure that our veterans have the kind of support that they need when they come home. And that is not reflected in the kind of budget that you're putting forward because it just doesn't work."
Data from the U.S. Navy shows that in 2011, the Navy had 285 ships -- the fewest number of ships since 1916, when it had 245. In 1917, it had 342 ships. The number of ships reached a low point in 2007, at 278.
The Navy had said since 2005, as Romney stated, that it needed 313 ships to meet global defense needs. However, in April of this year, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the Navy could meet its needs with a 300-ship fleet.
Mabus in April also responded to Romney's critique of the Navy's relatively small fleet -- like Mr. Obama, he said the comparison was pointless because of today's advanced technology. "It's like comparing the telegraph to the smartphone. They're just not comparable," he said, the Navy Times reported.
As for the assertion that the U.S. Air Force is older and smaller than at any time since 1947, Politifact finds the closest answer in a report published in 2010 by the Mitchell Institute, an organization founded by the Air Force Association. The report says the Air Force had 5,988 aircraft in 2009, lower than any year going back at least to 1950. However, security experts told Politifact that, as is the case with the Navy, the Air Force's advanced technologies more than make up for its smaller fleet.
Mr. Obama did sign into law $350 billion in cuts to defense in the Budget Control Act over the summer -- and unless Congress acts to avert the "sequestration" cuts slated to go into effect in January, the Pentagon budget will be slashed by about another $600 billion. Mr. Obama said that "will not happen," but he hasn't said how he's going to stop that from happening.
Romney said the military is shifting focus so that it will only be capable of fighting one conflict at a time. But when Mr. Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in January unveiled a new defense strategy for a smaller, more flexible military force, Panetta said just the opposite. "Confronting the threats of the 21st century demands greater flexibility to... shift forces," Panetta said, adding that "how we defeat the enemy may very well vary across conflicts."