Live Blog: Mitt Romney and Barack Obama Presidential Debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida
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."
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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."
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)