With Election Day fast approaching, President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney faced off in the third and final Presidential Debate Monday night.
The debate, hosted by Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., focused mainly on foreign policy, including conflicts in the Middle East, the civil war in Syria and the Sept. 11, 2012, killings of four American officials in Libya.
Romney congratulated Obama for successfully killing Osama bin Laden, but ultimately questioned his policies on the Middle East, charging that the unrest in Egypt and Libya had created a “rising tide of chaos.” He said America needed an expansive plan to handle the situation.
“We can’t kill our way out of this mess,” Romney said. “We’re going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the world of Islam and other parts of the world reject this violent extremism.”
Obama made it clear from the outset that he was on the attack, taking a jab at Romney’s views on Russia as a threat to the United States.
“Governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s,” Obama said.
The discussion of foreign policy and conflicts overseas also led to a discussion of defense cuts and sequestration, which could be devastating to the Virginia economy come January.
“I will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars, which is a combination of the budget cuts the president has, as well as the sequestration cuts,” Romney said. “That, in my view is making our future less certain and less secure.”
But Obama pointed out that the sequestration problem was not his doing.
“The sequester is not something I’ve proposed,” he said. “It is something Congress has proposed. It will not happen.”
Romney continued, saying that the U.S. Navy was the smallest it has been since 1917. More cuts would only make it smaller, he said.
“Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed,” Obama countered, setting off Twitter trends. “We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”
Obama also pledged the United States would support Israel in any instance of aggression from another nation.
Virginia Voters React
Del. Scott Surovell, D-Mount Vernon, said that the sequestration discussion would resonate with Virginia residents.
“The jet fuel of the Northern Virginia economy is government technology contracting, and especially defense contracting,” he said in an email immediately following the debate. “Our higher incomes, low unemployment, and quality of life are dependent on it. Governor Romney is stuck on a pre-1990's military vision.”
Ken Feltman, chair of the Falls Church City Republican Committee, agreed that Obama gave a good performance, but said that Romney ultimately did what was necessary.
“(Obama) was authoritative and rarely disdainful or condescending,” Feltman wrote in an email post-debate. “But Mitt Romney was not over-matched. He has a different vision for the United States and he had a different task tonight. Romney did not need to land a knockout punch. He needed to demonstrate that he can handle the job. He succeeded.”
Feltman also said Romney held his own with Obama on foreign policy.
“Romney stood out by showing he can go toe-to-toe with Obama in foreign policy, an area that Obama was supposed to dominate,” he said.
But Del. Rob Krupicka, D-Alexandria, said many of Romney’s comments were similar to Obama’s throughout the evening, shifting and changing.
“Romney me-too’d the president all night,” Krupicka said. “That isn't leadership. The president was strong and steady and knowledgeable. We need certainty to keep us safe in the world. Obama gave us that. He's won two debates in a row.”
Obama and Romney will now kick off two weeks of intense campaigning before Nov. 6.