Instant analysis: Subdued standoff in final presidential debate

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BOCA RATON, Fla. — President Barack Obama and Republican opponent Mitt Romney participated in the final debate of the presidential race at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida Monday night. The debate was a subdued fight that was ultimately brought back to the state of the economy in the United States.

The debate covered a myriad of subjects in foreign policy, with CBS host of "Face The Nation" Bob Schieffer moderating the debate. Entering the debate, it was expected the topic of Libya would be addressed. Although it was the first topic of discussion, it appears to have lost its sting with both campaigns.

Romney shifted his message on the deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya and the "failed" Obama administration to a general need for leadership as president. Romney also shifted the focus of the message to that of Iran as the world's biggest threat.

The shift and more subdued attack on Iran shows the Romney campaign has moved on and is looking to keep the message about jobs and the economy.

Near the end of the debate, topics on foreign policy were ultimately touched on and then there was a dramatic shift to jumpstarting the economy in the United States. President Obama said his administration has taken steps necessary to make America better, and will take the next four years making it even better.


Romney said countries around the world have noticed America is not leading because the economy is weak. Romney emphasized the need to create more jobs, balance the budget and increase the military to protect the American people. President Obama countered, saying education is the first step to creating jobs, while will help the economy bounce back.

Both candidates talked more about the various policies they would work to establish if elected president; however, both talked in mostly general terms, so as not to promise something that could not actually come to pass in the future.

At one point, even Romney shut down a question by Schieffer, saying he does not want to talk about hypothetical questions.

The candidates have approximately two weeks to convince voters, but unfortunately, the final debate will likely do little to persuade voters still on the fence. Both candidates handled themselves well and discussed their differences effectively and appropriately. The debate was an all-around tie, with neither candidates seemingly having an edge, which does not help either campaign in a deadlocked race.

Top 5 most tweeted topics in the final presidential debate.
Top 5 most tweeted topics in the final presidential debate. (Photo: Topsy)


  • Pres. Barack Obama:
    • China is both an adversary and a problem in the future as long as they keep bending the rules — must play by the same rules.
    • Set up a task force to go after cheaters in China — must have fair rules
    • We have to make sure we're taking care of business at home — education and technology.
    • Says it's Romney's right to ship jobs overseas, but the jobs should be back in the United States.
    • U.S. exports with China have doubled since taking office.
    • China can be a partner, but America is a power and we will have a force.
    • We have organize trade with more countries to show China that we're willing to trade with others.
    • We can't go back to the same policies of the past, but America must move forward.
  • Mitt Romney:
    • Government does not make business successful.
    • China wants a stable world because they have to manufacture goods — they wants jobs and a free world.
    • We owe China $1 trillion, and this has been devastating — will America be strong?
    • Americans have lost jobs because China has not played by the same rules — currency manipulators.
    • We want to trade with them, but they need to play by the rules.
    • We can't just surrender and lose jobs. We have to do something to keep China from doing this.
    • I want a great relationship with China, but they can't just roll all over us and take our jobs.
    • We can compete with anyone in the world, but we have to have a president that can lead.

Presidential Debate Grades:
Did the candidate answer the question?
  • Barack Obama: A-
    • President Obama answered the questions he was given, but then transitioned into domestic policies and attacking Romney.
  • Mitt Romney: A-
    • Romney, too, answered the questions given, but also transitioned into domestic policies, making an argument for a better economy at home.

How was their delivery?
  • Barack Obama: A
    • The delivery was more presidential and respectful in the final debate.
  • Mitt Romney: A
    • Romney, too, was respectful and presidential.

How did they present themselves?
  • Barack Obama: A
    • President Obama was effective and spoke clearly about his positions.
  • Mitt Romney: A
    • Romney did what he needed to do as the candidate challenging an incumbent president.

Did they appear genuine?
  • Barack Obama: A
    • President Obama appeared genuine, showing his leadership as president.
  • Mitt Romney: A
    • Romney appeared genuine in his responses, demonstrating the need for a new president.
Who was the overall winner?
  • Tie
    • Both candidates did what they needed to do to keep themselves from dipping in the polls. Neither candidate will likely benefit from the debate; however, neither will likely be hurt from it either.


  • Pres. Barack Obama:
    • We ended the war in Iraq and focused our attention on Afghanistan. We have met many of the goals we made when going into Afghanistan.
    • We're in a position where we can transition out, the people of Afghanistan can take control of the region.
    • After a decade of war, it's time to do some nation building back at home — create jobs for veterans and help them come back to society.
    • Our strategy wasn't just to go after bin Laden, but have engaged other governments to make sure they are not corrupt.
  • Mitt Romney:
    • We're going to be finished by 2014, and we're going to bring our troops out then.
    • We'll look at what's happening in Pakistan and see what it's doing for the region — it's important to see how they work. Must help them establish a more stable government.
    • If Pakistan becomes a failed state, there will be serious problems, especially with terrorists in the country. They're an ally, but we must help them move to a more responsible government.
    • We can't just walk away from Pakistan, we must send support.
    • We should use any and all means to get rid of enemies — support the use of drones.
    • Must have a better strategy to get the world away from extremists.

Israel and Iran:

  • Pres. Barack Obama:
    • Israel is a true friend and the greatest ally. If attacked, we would stand with Israel if they were attacked.
    • As long as I'm president of the United States, Iran will not get nuclear weapons.
    • Says he has put several sanctions on Iran and their economy is in shambles.
    • Says we should not take premature actions to stop Iran.
    • Our goal is to get Iran to recognize they should give up trying to acquire nuclear weapons.
    • Says he started putting sanctions on Iran when he took office, but it takes time to get them to work.
    • The clock is ticking, and we're not going to let them keep trying to acquire nuclear weapons.
  • Mitt Romney:
    • Echoes Obama, saying Iran will not get nuclear weapons if he is president and he will stand with Israel if they are attacked.
    • We must impose crippling sanctions — they do work. Would have put them in place earlier and tightened the sanctions.
    • Would take on diplomatic sanction efforts -- Ahmadinejad should be indicted.
    • Iran has felt the Obama administration is weak and is not as strong as it should be.
    • Must have the tightest sanctions possible so they quit working toward acquiring nuclear weapons.
    • America has not dictated other nations, we have freed other nations.

U.S. role in the world:

Tweets about China
Tweets about China (Photo: Topsy)

  • Pres. Barack Obama:
    • America remains the one indispensable nation and it is stronger than when I took office four years ago.
    • We have been able to position ourselves to rebuild America — bring back manufacturing jobs back to America.
    • Says promoting education and domestic energy policies will help us lead better.
    • Romney has taken a different approach throughout the campaign, and this is not the way to take us in the future.
    • Says the policies Romney is promoting don't actually help the small businesses.
    • Education is the way to help Americans get jobs, and this is what my last four years have been about.
    • Companies will locate in the U.S. if we have the most skilled workforce.

Tweets about Afghanistan
Tweets about Afghanistan (Photo: Topsy)

  1. Mitt Romney:
    • Defend freedom and make the world more peaceful, but America must be strong and lead — America can't lead if the economy isn't strong at home.
    • We must have a strong military and we must stand by our allies.
    • Romney says his future is to create jobs with five simple steps — domestic energy sources, trade, training programs and schools, balanced budget and must champion small businesses.
    • Says as governor he helped improve education and led the nation in many categories.
    • Will cut five percent of the discretionary budget, which will help improve the military.
    • Will cut any program that is not essential for the American people.
    • Highest responsibility is to maintain the safety of the American people, which is by improving the military. Syria:

Tweets about Israel
Tweets about Israel (Photo: Topsy)

  • Pres. Barack Obama:
    • Says Assad has to go, but Syrians will ultimately determine their future.
    • Working to help fight the opposition, but we must know who we are helping so we don't give aid to the wrong people.
    • American has been the leader and has worked closely to work with allies.
    • I think America has to stand with democracy, but governments must take significant steps to recognize religious minorities and women.
    • For American to be successful in the region is to be successful at home — must improve our economy and energy sources.

Tweets about Iran
Tweets about Iran (Photo: Topsy)

  1. Mitt Romney:
    • Syria is an opportunity for us because they are Iran's only ally — removing Assad is extremely critical, but a military conflict should not be the first step.
    • We must make sure the arms are not given to those who are against the United States — effective leadership.
    • The U.S. should play the leadership role and not turn it over to the U.N.
    • Our objective is to replace Assad and institute a friendly government to the U.S.
    • Wish we would have worked more with Egypt with President Obama, and even before.
    • Our purpose is to make the world more peaceful, but we must be strong — a strong economy at home, a strong military. Libya:

Tweets about Syria
Tweets about Syria (Photo: Topsy)

  • Pres. Barack Obama:
    • Americans are able to transition out of Afghanistan efficiently.
    • Did everything he could to secure those in harms way, investigate those involved and bring down those involved.
    • Says Romney's foreign strategies are not going to keep Americans safe.
    • Attacks Romney, saying Russia is the biggest threat, not al Qaeda.
    • Says Romney has been wrong every time he's been asked to offer his opinion on foreign policy issues.
    • You've got to be clear with your allies and enemies on where you stand.
    • Israel is a true friend and the greatest ally in the region.

Tweets about Libya
Tweets about Libya (Photo: Topsy)

  1. Mitt Romney:
    • Says the greatest threat in the Middle East is Iran.
    • We can't kill our way out of the mess in the Middle East.
    • The right course for America is to go after the leaders of the various hostile groups.
    • We should coordinate to give better economic solutions to keep the problems from growing.
    • Attacking me is not an agenda and will not help solve the problems in the Middle East.
    • Russia is a geopolitical foe and Iran is the greatest threat.


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Josh Furlong


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