In foreign policy debate, Romney and Obama get domestic
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It was billed as a debate on foreign policy, but that did not stop Democratic President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, from sparring repeatedly on issues that polls indicate are more important to voters: the economy and jobs.
After two contentious debates that helped to reshape the battle for the White House, the final encounter between Obama and Romney featured few actual differences on foreign policy.
Instead, the candidates detoured from the debate's agenda to reprise their frequent clashes over government budgets, school class sizes, the federal bailout of the auto industry and tax incentives for small business.
There was no aggressive Romney offensive, like the one in the October 3 debate that help boost the Republican in the polls so that as of Monday, he was virtually tied with Obama in the Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll.
But Obama, who recovered from the first debate to turn in a well-reviewed performance in his second debate against Romney last week, stayed aggressive on Monday.
Obama accused the former Massachusetts governor of proposing wrong and reckless policies at home and abroad and reminded voters that Romney had praised former Republican President George W. Bush as a good economic steward.
Romney played it cautious in foreign policy areas where he has little experience but took every opportunity to turn the debate back to the economy and his criticism of Obama's economic leadership.
In the end, analysts said, it was a showdown that is unlikely to alter the course of the race to the November 6 election, as Romney did in the first debate.
It was the kind of debate that is going to make both sides feel good, said Bruce Buchanan, a political scientist at the University of Texas.
Obama has the edge on foreign policy, but that's not the issue that is pushing voters, he said. And Romney made his points and was particularly effective at tying the economy into the debate about the strength of the country.
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