The 2012 presidential debate series ended Oct.22 in a clash that veered from foreign policy and war to the U.S. economy and jobs as President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney shared a stage for the final scheduled encounter of the campaign.
Most political pollsters and campaign observers declared Obama the winner of the third presidential debate, which took place at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. More than 59 million people tuned into the debate—fewer than the first and second debate, which took place at the same time as Monday Night Football, where the Chicago Bears defeated the Detroit Lions, and Game 7 of the National League Championship series, where the San Francisco Giants clipped the St. Louis Cardinals.
In the third debate, the president laid out a foreign policy strategy built around engagement and diplomacy, enhanced by a military-backed pledge to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to U.S. enemies.
Romney said he agreed with Obama’s policies regarding the use of “crippling sanctions” against Iran, which focus on its economy; support for Israel; drone strikes; withdrawal from the war in Afghanistan; and relations with Pakistan.
While he was less confrontational than in previous debates with the president, Romney used his time to restate his campaign pledge to address the nation’s economic woes in a five–step program that would produce 12 million new jobs.
But the former Massachusetts governor’s assertions drew sharp rebuttals from the president.
“I’m glad that you agree that we have been successful in going after Al Qaida, but I have to tell you that, you know, your strategy previously has been one that has been all over the map and is not designed to keep Americans safe or to build on the opportunities that exist in the Middle East," Obama said.
And when Romney said he would increase the size of the military, noting that the number of ships in the U.S. Navy is at a historic low, Obama noted that defense policy is not like the video game “Battleship.”
"You mention the navy, for example,” Obama said. “You say we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers. Planes land on them. We have ships that go underwater, called nuclear submarines..."
In his summation, Obama dismissed his challenger’s policies.
"Romney wants…a foreign policy that's wrong and reckless, economic policies that won't create jobs, won't reduce our deficit, but will make sure that folks at the very top don't have to play by the same rules that you do,” he said. “And I've got a different vision for America."