Live Blog: Mitt Romney and Barack Obama Presidential Debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida
With the final debate less than four hours away, see how workers at Lynn University have been preparing the site.
While some Americans may be distracted by football or baseball games Monday night, a number of viewers will be tuning in to the final presidential debate from abroad. Reuters’ Matthew Keys reports that CNN International and BBC World News will air the debate, as well as the Brazilian network Rede Globo TV Internacional and the French TV5Monde on tape delay.
In America, the debate is being carried by NBC, ABC and CBS, as well as cable channels CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, FOX News, FOX Business, Current TV and C-SPAN, according to Keys. Univision will air the debate in Spanish translation, while FOX will be showing game seven of the National League Championship Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants instead.
Co-chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates Mike McCurry just told the audience that, as in the previous debates, there is to be "no clapping, no cheering, no yelling, no harrumphing, no gasping" response to the candidates’ remarks, according to CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller.
Earlier Monday, McCurry told Fox News that the debates ought to be be both "informing and entertaining."
Scott Van Duzer, the pizza shop owner who famously hoisted Obama off the ground in a big bear hug last month, is sitting right next to Michelle Obama in the debate hall.
The Obama campaign confirmed earlier on Monday that Van Duzer, whose shop is in Fort Pierce, Fla., would be invited.
Sitting behind the first lady is Charlie Christ, the former Republican Florida governor expected to run as a Democrat in 2014.
(Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
On foreign policy, Romney looks to a wide breadth of advisers to guide him.
Former Republican Senators Jim Talent and Norm Coleman are on the roster as well as George W. Bush’s former CIA director Michael Hayden and his Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Dan Senor, a former spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, advises Romney on the Middle East.
Romney has dozens of foreign policy advisers, but ABC News reports eight of them were conservatives who were a part of the Project for a New American Century think tank.
While speaking about the main threats in the Middle East, Mitt Romney stated Mali has been taken over by "al-Qaida individuals."
The Associated Press reported on Monday that France plans to send military drones to Mali in an attempt to win back "the north part of the country from al-Qaida-linked rebels."
Many in the West worry the weak infrastructure in the West African country will become a "new Afghanistan," where Islamic hard line extremists can train and operate.
France has engaged in closed-door talks with U.S. officials in Paris this week to develop an international plan to address threats there.
Nonverbal communication experts say Romney has the better debate performance so far.
"Romney, initially at least, is effective at controlling the visual space," says Erik Bucy, a professor at Texas Tech University's college of media and communication. "His reaction shot appears to be a little more confident than Obama's, judging both by the constancy of his gaze and the blinking rate of each candidate."
Blinking, Bucy says, is a clear sign of stress.
Romney stated that Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Middle East, and its route to the sea.
Iran actually borders directly on the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Syria borders the Mediterranean Sea.
Iran has, however, been a major trade partner with Syria, including Western suspicions that it is shipping weapons to the Assad regime.
Iran also recently becoming Syria’s sole source for foreign electricity.
Mitt Romney again repeated that Syria was "Iran's route to the sea," a phrase that has raised some eyebrows, considering that Iran is on the Persian Gulf, which leads to the Arabian Sea, and the Mediterranean's coastline is more than 1,500 miles away, through a still unstable Iraq.
But Romney has said a similar phrase at least five times before--when pressed in April, his campaign defended the statement.
“It is generally recognized that Syria offers Iran strategic basing/staging access to the Mediterranean as well as to terrorist proxies in the Levant," the campaign said. "This is a large reason why Iran invests so much in Syria.”
Barack Obama greets Mitt Romney as moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS looks on prior to the final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
During the debate, Romney said he did not have any intention of putting troops on the ground in Syria.
However, in an interview with CBS News in August, Mitt Romney said that he would be willing to put U.S. troops on the ground if it meant keeping chemical weapons out of the hands of Syria’s ally, Iran.
"I think we have to also be ready to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that we do not have any kind of weapon of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists and whether that requires troops, or whether that requires other actions by our friends and allies,” Romney said.
In his answer to the question on America's role in the world, Gov. Romney said that democracy promotion would lead to greater peace and security because "when people vote, they tend to vote for peace." This is only half true. Research on democracies and war overwhelming concludes that democracies don't fight each other, but democracies fight non-democracies at an alarming rate.
David Bell Mislan, Ph.D.
School of International Service
Romney's policy on Syria has shifted slightly from previous statements. He said he doesn't want to have the U.S. military involved in Syria, but he wants to ensure the opposition to the Assad regime has arms.
"In the past, Romney criticized Obama's policy towards Syria by emphasizing the need to provide the rebels with heavy weapons," says Dr. Nora Bensahel, Center for New American Security deputy director of studies and senior fellow. "This evening, he emphasized diplomacy more than military assistance, which is more similar to the approach that the administration has pursued during the past year."
Obama said Monday the U.S. has organized the international community, including the formation of The Friends of Syria, to make it clear that "Assad has got to go."
On Sequestration / $1 Trillion Defense Cut
Romney referred to $1 trillion in sequestration and budget cuts, and how that would hit the military. A few quick facts on that. The sequestration due to go into effect at the start of the year calls for roughly $1 trillion in total budget cuts from most programs (with a few exemptions) over the next nine years, which amounts to about $110 billion per year, starting in 2013.This deal, which dates to the 2011 Budget Control Act, stipulates that half of the cuts must come from defense. So defense cuts would amount to about $55 billion per year, or nearly $500 billion over the next nine years.
That's a lot, but it’s worth keeping in mind that the U.S. defense budget is now about $700 billion. As a percentage of GDP it's at the highest level since the end of the Cold War. Here are some of the programs that will get hit the hardest if the sequestration goes into effect as scheduled, and Congress doesn't postpone it as part of the fiscal-cliff deliberations coming at the end of this year.
Russia as a 'Security Threat'
In a March interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Mitt Romney called Russia the U.S.'s "No. 1 geopolitical foe," adding that Russians “fight for every cause for the world’s worst actors.”
Since then, the president has blasted Romney for this statement--as he did tonight--saying that there are much more threatening enemies at play. But the real argument may be that there is simply more common ground between the two countries than Romney may realize, according to one expert.
"Relations with Russia are challenging, but should not present a threat of *any* kind to the United States," says Matt Rojansky, deputy director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in an e-mail to US News. There are plenty of areas on which the US will have to cooperate with Russia, and both candidates know it, he says.
"Both President Obama and Governor Romney recognize that on Day One of the next Administration, the U.S. will need to work with Russia to manage global security threats, like WMD proliferation, drugs and arms trafficking, and terrorism," Rojansky says.
Mitt Romney speaks as moderator Bob Schieffer looks on during the final presidential debate. (Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Defense spending perspective
U.S. defense spending is 42 percent of the world's total spending on defense. Here's how the US ranks on defense spending, compared to other countries, based on 2011 figures.
United States: $711 billion.
China: $143 billion
Russia: $72 billion
UK: $63 billion
France: $63 billion
Japan: $59 billion
India: $49 billion
Saudia Arabia: $49 billion
Germany: $48 billion
Brazil: $35 billion
(Data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.)
In planning the next budget, Obama said "what we have to think about is not just budgets, we have to think about capabilities."
The military needs to adapt to 21st-century battlefields, he said, including in cyber security and space programs.
"Governor, we have fewer courses in bayonets, because our military has changed," Obama said.
The president also said "our deficit is a big national security concern."
But one expert says the U.S. must first identify a clear enemy.
"There's no way to know whether the U.S. military has the right number of ships, airplanes, ground troops, or any other capability without identifying a clear strategy - what are the threats that require such capabilities?" says Dr. Nora Bensahel, Center for New American Security deputy director of studies and senior fellow.
Update: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in June, 2011 that "[Defense spending] is by no means the cause of the deficits," while speaking at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Obama speaks during the third and final presidential debate. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
A brief rundown on the differences between the Obama and Romney defense plans. Obama's budget would draw down defense spending from about $700 billion today to $565 billion in 2015. That does not account for the upcoming sequester (part of the “fiscal cliff) which Obama just said "will not happen."
Romney says he wants to spend 4 percent of GDP on defense, without giving a number for the overall defense budget. Currently, the U.S. spends more than 4 percent of GDP on defense, but under Obama’s plan it would fall to something like 3.5 percent of GDP (though that depends, of course, on how rapidly the economy grows).
Under an optimistic growth scenario, Romney’s defense spending could amount to something like $700 billion in 2015, which would be considerably more than Obama would spend. But that of course would depend on congressional approval and the resolution of other tough budget issues.
In reality, defense spending could very easily fall under either candidate.
Here's a comparison of the two plans based on information compiled by Bloomberg and published by the blog ZeroHedge.
The candidates have gotten in a number of zingers over the past 45 minutes.
"We can't kill our way out of this mess." -- Romney, in a subtle jab at how often the Obama administration mentions the successful killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
"The 1980s are now calling and asking for their foreign policy back." -- Obama, on Romney having called Russia "America's No. 1 geopolitical foe."
"I'm certainly not going to say I'll have more flexibility after the election." -- Romney,
in a dig at Obama's mic slip in March of a conversation with outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
"We have fewer ships than we had in 1916... We also had fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed." -- Obama, responding to a complaint from Romney about the size of the U.S. Navy.
In his comments on Iran, Gov. Romney just said two things that don't make a lot of sense. First, his call to bar Iranian oil from "our ports" would be redundant since the U.S. is not importing Iranian oil. Second, his call to indict Iranian President Ahmedinejad on charges of genocide is baseless. While it's true that he has called to "wipe Israel off the map" and has denied the Holocaust, those acts simply do not meet the international legal definition of genocide.
David Bell Mislan, Ph.D.
School of International Service
Obama says that the sanctions put in place on Iran this year by the United States and Europe amount to "the toughest, most crippling sanctions ever."
Okay. But are they working? Here's what the Congressional Research Service said in a report published last week:
"The principal objective of international sanctions—to compel Iran to verifiably confine its nuclear program to purely peaceful uses—has not been achieved to date. However, a broad international coalition has imposed progressively strict economic sanctions on Iran’s oil export lifeline, producing increasingly severe effects on Iran’s economy. Many judge that Iran might soon decide it needs a nuclear compromise to produce an easing of sanctions."
Here are some of the reasons that CRS and others feel sanctions are having some effect: Sanctions have cut Iranian oil exports from 2.5 million barrels per day last year to about 1 million barrels per day. Since oil sales account for roughly 70 percent of the government’s revenue, this is a big hit for the Iranian regime.
The loss of hard currency has caused a collapse in the value of the Iranian rial. That in turn is causing havoc. Inflation may be running at 50 percent or higher. There's confusion among merchants who don’t know how to price their goods, in addition to street protests, new government currency controls, and rise in black-market activity.
The Federation of American Scientists has posted a copy of that study.
Romney and Obama battle during the debate at Lynn University. (Getty Images)
Romney said that as governor, "we kept [Massachusetts] schools number one in the nation. They're still number one today." Though his state's schools generally rank near the top, Education Week ranked the state's school systems as second in the nation behind Maryland. In 2011, the state ranked third behind Maryland and New York. Maryland has held the top spot for the last four years.
According to the U.S. News Best High School rankings, the top ranking Massachusetts high school is Sturgis, a charter school that ranked 15th in the country and has just 10 students for each teacher.
"You can't have an economy that over the last three years keeps slowing down its growth rate." -- Romney
It's hard to tell what Romney means here. If he's saying that GDP has slowed down steadily over the last three years, that is not borne out by the numbers. According to the Commerce Department, annualized GDP growth in the second quarter (the most recently available number) was 1.3 percent -- disappointingly slow, to be sure, in an economy that badly needs a stronger recovery. However, it is not slower than the rate three years prior, in the second quarter of 2009: -0.3 percent.
Then again, Romney is correct that GDP keeps speeding encouragingly, then slowing down. In late 2009, GDP growth hit 4 percent, only to slow to the low-to-mid 2 percent range for a year, then bottoming out at 0.1 percent at the start of 2011. Since again climbing last year, hitting 4.1 percent in the fourth quarter, growth has again decelerated.
The advance estimate of third-quarter GDP is due on Friday. According to MarketWatch, consensus expectations are for 1.8 percent growth.
Erik Bucy, the noncommunication expert, says male viewers are responding positively to Romney's tough military talk. "Obama seems to be relying on an 'explainer in chief' style that isn't resonating strongly with our sample of viewers," he says, while "Romney's attack on Obama's 'apology tour' gets a rise from male viewers and Republicans."
Patrick Stewart, an associate professor of political science at the University of Arkansas, notes that Obama tightened his jaw during this discussion, and delivered a "control smile" when Romney brought up the apology tour. It "hit a sour point," Stewart says.
Romney says that Obama has allowed Iran's nuclear centrifuges to spin for four years unabated. Though the country has largely refused to talk about its nuclear program, the United States (with Israel's assistance) is widely believed to be behind Stuxnet, the controversial cyber attack that physically damaged Iranian centrifuges and reduced their capacity by more than 30 percent.
Kevin Coleman, author of The Cyber Commanders Handbook, says "Stuxnet as a weapon is unparalleled" and an official for the National Nuclear Security Administration said in March that the "Stuxnet worm is a very real example of how sophisticated malware can cause physical damage to industrial systems."
The United States and Israel are also believed to be behind the Flame virus, a sophisticated computer virus that infected thousands of government computers in Iran and was discovered earlier this year.
Mitt Romney would like to increase defense spending so that peace time spending is at 4 percent of GDP. Obama said that would be too much, arguing the U.S. already spends more on its defense program than the next ten spending countries combined.
The reality is that the U.S. spends more on its defense program than the next 19 nations combined.
Brookings Institution military analyst Michael O’ Hanlon has estimated that the U.S. spends 45 percent of the world’s defense spending, which totals $1.46 trillion.
Students and professors cheer while dancing with cutouts of Obama and Romney while watching the third debate at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass. (Charles Krupa/AP)
The amount that Romney has praised the president -- on drones, on OBL, on Iranian sanctions -- shows you where the American public is unified on foreign policy.
Mitt Romney said it's not time to divorce a country--Pakistan--that has over 100 nuclear weapons. He said he worried that terrorists could "grab their hands on nuclear weapons" in Pakistan.
Thus far, only the United States and the Soviet Union are believed to have made portable nuclear devices.
President Obama defended his record on Iran by noting that he got Russia and China on board crippling sanctions. But that doesn't mean Russia and China are on board with Obama's strategy to deny Iran a nuclear weapon, especially if it does ultimately come to some form of military action. The problem now, in the shadow of the deep divide with Russia over Syria, is that we can't cooperate the way we should with Russia on this critical issue. For example, we can't share sensitive intelligence if we fear Russia may eventually pass it to Iran, and we can hardly expect full cooperation from Moscow in return.
Deputy Director, Russia and Eurasia Program
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Some Facts on the Amount of U.S. Debt Held by China
China only holds about 7 percent of the U.S. national debt, which totals $16.2 trillion. China's holdings amount to about $1.2 trillion, which is slightly ahead of Japan, which holds $1.1 trillion.
Foreigners in total hold about one-third of the national debt, or $5.4 trillion. U.S. investors, including pension funds, Wall Street banks and ordinary individuals, hold 37 percent of the debt, or roughly $6 trillion.
The rest, about $4.9 trillion, is held by government agencies, such as the Social Security Trust Fund and the Medicare Trust Fund, along with the Federal Reserve.
Both candidates seem to be in agreement about the future of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.
"We're going to be finished by 2014, and when I’m president, we'll be sure to bring our troops out by 2014," Romney said.
Obama stated the U.S. has lost sight of the original mission for entering Afghanistan. Many of those objectives, including decimating al-Qaida's leadership and building Afghan forces, have been accomplished.
"We are now in a position where we can transition out," he said.
Neither addressed recent green on blue attacks, where militants posing as Afghan security forces have increasingly attacked U.S. forces in recent months.
General John Allen, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force, said recently on 60 Minutes: "Well, I'm mad as hell about them, to be honest with you. We're going to get after this. It reverberates everywhere, across the United States. You know, we're willing to sacrifice a lot for this campaign. But we're not willing to be murdered for it."
Commanders on the ground got half the troops they asked for, and half the time they needed for the surge before the U.S. started the draw down, says James Jay Carafano, director of The Heritage Foundation's Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies. As a result, the U.S. won't be ready for a 2014 withdrawal, he argues.
Obama grasps a pen during the final presidential debate. (Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)
In his 2008 OP-ED for the New York Times titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” Romney does argue that Detroit should restructure itself without a bailout. But, he did say that the government should pour more money into researching smarter fuel technology.
Romney says that would ultimately help the auto industry rebuild itself in the U.S.
“It is not wrong to ask for government help, but the automakers should come up with a win-win proposition. I believe the federal government should invest substantially more in basic research — on new energy sources, fuel-economy technology, materials science and the like — that will ultimately benefit the automotive industry, along with many others,” Romney wrote. “I believe Washington should raise energy research spending to $20 billion a year, from the $4 billion that is spent today. The research could be done at universities, at research labs and even through public-private collaboration. The federal government should also rectify the imbedded tax penalties that favor foreign carmakers.”
Google Politics reports the top search terms during the debate include "bayonets," "Barack Obama 2008," "Syria," and "Romney troops in Iraq."
On Twitter, "nuclear Iran," "China," and "cheap Chinese tires" remain among the most mentioned.
Two days after a U.S. aircraft carrier cruised through the disputed South China Sea, both candidates avoided directly addressing the possibility of military engagement with China.
"Both candidates are focusing on China as an economic partner rather than China's military modernization, which could potentially challenge U.S. interests and allies in the region," says Dr. Nora Bensahel, Center for New American Security deputy director of studies and senior fellow.
Additionally, China and Japan's navies have challenged one another's maritime borders in recent weeks as China seeks to increase its economic and military presence in the region.
Mitt Romney said he would declare china a currency manipulator on Day One of his presidency. Still, President Obama often claims some progress on this area, touting the fact that China’s currency value has increased during his presidency.
But is it fair for the president to get credit for it? Yes, but then George W. Bush deserves some credit as well, according to one expert.
"Well I think he certainly could take credit for it. It happened on his watch. On the other hand the currency also appreciated in the last few years of the previous Bush administration," said Nicholas Lardy, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, in an interview posted on his organization’s website last week. "So I think we have to recognize that China did make a fundamental change in its currency policy in the middle of 2005, and appreciation has continued since that time."
Unofficial number of times "Latin America" was mentioned: 4, all by Romney
"Number two, we're going to increase our trade. Trade grows about 12 percent year. It doubles about every -- every five or so years. We can do better than that, particularly in Latin America. The opportunities for us in Latin America we have just not taken advantage of fully. As a matter of fact, Latin America's economy is almost as big as the economy of China. We're all focused on China. Latin America is a huge opportunity for us -- time zone, language opportunities."
Unofficial number of times "Europe" was mentioned: 1, by Obama:
"And Governor Romney, our alliances have never been stronger, in Asia, in Europe, in Africa, with Israel, where we have unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation, including dealing with the Iranian threat."
The post-debate headlines are now in. Some of the most dramatic:
Drudge Report: GRAND FINALE
Huffington Post: CHIEF IN COMMAND
Huffington Post Politics: LIVIN’ LA VIDA BOCA
New York Times: RIVALS ARGUE...
Washington Post: OBAMA KEEPS ROMNEY ON HIS HEELS
CBS: CANDIDATES GO TO WAR...
Fox News: ROMNEY PITCHES FOREIGN POLICY SHIFT...
CNN: CANDIDATES TRY TO CLOSE THE SALE
National Journal: OBAMA WINS NO. 3, ROMNEY WINS SERIES
Here's how many times other foreign locales were mentioned (unofficial tally)...
Iran, Iranian: 47
China, Chinese: 34
Israel, Israeli: 34
United Kingdom: 1
Canada, Mexico: 0
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney pass each other after the third presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., on Oct. 22, 2012. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)