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Decision 2012: Libya Attack, Iran Are Pressing Topics For Presidential Debate On Foreign Policy

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TWC News: Decision 2012: Libya Attack, Iran Are Pressing Topics For Presidential Debate On Foreign Policy
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President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney are preparing for their third and final debate before Election Day which will focus entirely on foreign policy.

The candidates are meeting in Lynn University at Boca Raton, Fla. and they will likely spar over issues such as last month's deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya and the prospect of talks with Iran on its nuclear program.

Debate moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS news has listed five subjects for the debate, with more time devoted to the Middle East and terrorism than any other topic.

Both candidates will be sitting, and the moderator will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond.

The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a discussion.

"The challenge for President Obama is going to be defining the Middle East strategy going forward. I mean, he's had some successes, he's had some things that are still pretty murky," said Jon Alterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The Libya attack has become an especially heated issue on both sides of the aisle.

In the last debate, Romney seized on the ambiguity that followed the deaths of four Americans in Libya.

"The president’s policies throughout the Middle East began with an apology tour, and pursue a strategy of leading from behind. And this strategy is unraveling before our very eyes," Romney said during the debate on October 16.

In return, Obama pointed out Romney's trip-ups on Libya.

"While we were still dealing with our diplomats being threatened, Governor Romney put out a press release, trying to make political points. And that's not how a commander-in-chief operates," Obama said in that debate.

Obama advisors also stressed that Romney's tough talk on Russia and China would raise tensions in a dangerous world.

"We're stronger today than we were four years ago, and I think that will stand in contrast to Mitt Romney who has not been steady, who's been reckless," said Obama campaign adviser Stephanie Cutter.

Romney is also expected to blast Obama's shaky relationship with the Israeli prime minister, and argue that the United States is shrinking in stature with Obama at the helm.

National polls have the president and the former Massachusetts governor tied, although within the Electoral College, Obama is seen as having a small advantage.

Obama prepared for the debate in Camp David in Maryland, while Mitt Romney got ready in Florida.

A viewing party is being held at the Council on Foreign Affairs in the Upper East Side Monday night as the two presidential candidates debate the final round.

Experts at the council said they want to hear more from the candidates about America’s role on the world stage, especially with the rise of China and the European Union. However, the debate is likely to turn to turmoil in the Middle East.

In the last debate, which was held in a town hall format, the candidates covered a wide range of issues, including foreign policy.

Monday’s debate is expected to focus on foreign affairs. However, experts said the candidates may highlight areas where they think they are stronger, even if they are domestic issues.

“Normally, foreign policy doesn’t feature in campaigns and foreign policy debate wouldn’t matter very much,” said Jordan Tepperman, the managing editor of Foreign Affairs magazine. “But for a number of reasons this is going to be very different. Number one, this is their last meeting and we’re only two weeks away from the election and two, the debates have really been changing the dynamic of the election so far.”

Experts added that although the recent attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya was handled clumsily by the Obama administration, it is a small issue in the grand scheme of the nation's foreign policy.

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