President Obama and Mitt Romney met tonight for their third and final debate, the last chance for them to make their case to win the 2012 general election before a large audience.
The incumbent Democrat and his Republican challenger sat down—literally—for 90 minutes at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., in a debate sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Bob Schieffer of CBS News moderated the session, which featured a roundtable discussion between the three focused on foreign affairs.
The debate was shown live on cable and network television, as well as C-Span. Boston.com, BostonGlobe.com, and “Political Intelligence” offered a live blog below to chronicle the pre-debate proceedings and debate itself.
Lines in quotes may be direct quotation but are contemporaneous transcriptions.
All three also offered contemporaneous fact-checking and analysis from Globe reporters expert in various fields, as in the two prior debates, repeating a unique “second-screen” experience for viewers seeking additional context for what they are seeing on TV.
The blog also served as a window into the debate to those not near a TV.
Obama and Romney met first on Oct. 3 at the University of Denver and last Tuesday at Hofstra University.
Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan had their lone debate on Oct. 11 at Centre College in Danville, Ky.
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10:34 p.m.—“I’d like to be the next president of the United States,” says Romney.
And with that, the debate concludes, and with it, the debate series.
Romney and Obama have extended handshake at end, and even share a laugh.
This will be the last time they see each other before Election Day.
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10:33 p.m.—“America’s going to come back, and for that we need a president who knows how to work across the aisle,” as he did in Massachusetts, says Romney.
10:32 p.m.—After Obama pledges to fight for families.
Romney thanks Schieffer, Obama, and Lynn University.
Says he is excited for future.
“We have the opportunity to have real leadership,” he says. Under Obama, country will be “heading toward Greece,” while he will restore economy.
10:29 p. m- Schiffer moves to closings.
Obama says clearly, “Now you’ve got a choice,” between policies that created wars and started worst recession since Great Depression.
“I’ve got a different vision for America,” he says, deliberately trying to paint vision critics said was lacking from him during first two debates.
10:28 p.m.—Romneys says he wants to go forward, but not with policies of past four years.
He then ticks through economic indexes that have gotten worse during administration.
“It’s just a tragedy that in in a nation so prosperous as ours that the last four years have been so hard,” says Romney.
10:26 p.m.—Romney accuses Obama of investing in companies, not basic academic research.
“Governor Romney, you keep trying to airbrush history here,” says Obama.
“You’re wrong, Mr. President,” says Romney. “No, I am not wrong,” is the reply.
They agree fact-checkers will sort it out.
10:24 p.m.—Romney retorts again, “Attacking me is not an agenda,” and then also rebuts that he would not hurt US auto industry.
Recites that he called for a “managed bankruptcy” and that he would not hurt the industry.
“I have never said I would liquidate the industry,” says Romney.
Obama replies, “The people of Detroit don’t forget.”
10:21 p.m.—Obama hits back, “You are familiar with shipping jobs overseas, because you invested in companies shipping jobs overseas.”
Also says if US took his auto industry advice, “we’d be buying cars from China.”
Obama says US exports to China have doubled since he took office.
10:20 p.m.—Schieffer says to Romney, If you declare them a currency manipulator on Day One, won’t that start trade war?
Romney says there already is a trade imbalance, and it is in China’s interest to have the US market open to it.
10:17 p.m.—Romney focuses on China, saying government doesn’t help businesses grow.
Then he makes clear that greatest threat to US is a nuclear Iran.
Then, returning to China, says, “We can be a partner with China ... if they’re willing to be responsible.”
Says US is compromised with US deficit to China, and cuts to US military.
10:15 p.m.—Schieffer asks Obama: What is greatest future threat?
President says terrorism, followed by China, which can be great economic partner, but it has to be a world partner, too.
10:14 p.m.—Obama says drones aren’t only part of US policy, that State Department has engaged on a variety of levels.
“Across the board,” US is supporting them, he said.
10:12 p.m.—Schieffer asks Romney, “What is your position on the use of drones?”
Says it is widely reported they are in heavy use, and he supports that.
But he also calls for “a far more effective and comprehensive strategy” to move world away from radical extremism.
10:10 p.m.—Schieffer asks Romney about Pakistan: It has arrested doctor who led US to bin Laden. “Is it time for us to divorce Pakistan?”
Romney says no, since it has 100 nuclear weapons.
“It’s not a nation that’s like others,” since it has military control.
“If it becomes a failed state, there are nuclear weapons there. ... This is an important part of the world for us,” says Romney.
10:08 p.m.—Obama has pulled into a two-minute lead in speaking time: 31 minutes vs. 28:04 for Romney.
10:07 p.m.—Schieffer asks what happens if Afghans aren’t ready to assume control of country in 2014.
Romney says they will be ready.
Obama says that US “is now in a position where we have met many of the objectives.”
10:04 p.m.—In a biting aside, Obama notes that Vice President Joe Biden had doubts about going into Pakistan to get bin Laden, but the president went ahead anyway.
That is called throwing someone under the bus. Biden always says president had “spine of steel” and was “ramrod straight” on that occasion.
10:03 p.m.—The president is just ripping Romney over his 2008 statement that he would not go into Pakistan to get Osama bin Laden or “move heaven and Earth” to get them.
Obama says “we moved heaven and Earth” and got him.
10:02 p.m.—Obama has been unleashing broadsides.
Says on an array of issues, “You have been all over the map.”
Then notes that, in many cases, Romney now agrees with administration approach to specific issues.
10 p.m.—Schieffer asks, “What if prime minister of Israel called and said, ‘Our bombers are on the way?’”
Romney says he doesn’t want to discuss hypotheticals, but that wouldn’t happen because of his close personal relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
He said US influence is receding.
9:59 p.m—Obama says foreign nations have to determine, “who’s going to be credible.”
9:57 p.m.—Romney notes that Obama went to Egypt, Turkey, other nations, but not Israel.
Obama retorts that when he went to Israel, “I didn’t take donors,” as Romney did this summer.
9:56 p.m.—“We’re four years closer to a nuclear Iran,” says Romney.
9:55 p.m. —President says: “Let me just respond: Nothing Governor Romney just said is true.” Calls “apology” suggestion the biggest “whopper” of the campaign.
9:54 p.m.—“It’s essential for a president to show strength—from the very beginning,” says Romney.
9:53 p.m.—Romney says Iran has seen weakness in US because Obama said he would meet with foreign leaders.
“And then the president began what I have called ‘an apology tour,’” adds the former governor.
9:51 p.m.—Schieffer asks about reports of negotiating directly with Iran.
President says report in weekend New York Times “is not true.”
He adds, “I’m glad that Governor Romney agrees with the steps that we are taking.”
His implied message: Romney has no clear policy differences, and that his policy has been focused on consensus building—unlike President Bush, apparently, who was accused of a go-it-alone policy.
9:50 p.m.—Romney also calls for indicting Iranian president for genocide.
“Of course, a military action is a last resort,” he concludes.
9:47 p.m.—Obama suggests when it comes to Iran, Romney seems to have suggested “premature” military action.
Romney says, “If Israel is attacked, we have their back.”
And on Iran, “there is no question that a nuclear-capable Iran is unacceptable.”
9:46 p.m.—Again, exactly on time, Schieffer moves to new topic: Would you treat attack on Israel as one on the US.
“I will stand with Israel if they are attacked,” says Obama.
9:44 p.m.—Obama gets tart in reply, saying Romney’s military vision is dated, that country no longer needs as many bayonnets as it once did.
He is bordering on being lecturing to Romney.
9:42 p.m.—“Bob, I’m pleased that I’ve balanced budget,” says Romney.
“The president hasn’t balanced a budget yet,” he adds.
Romney then says Navy needs more ships, Air Force needs newer and more planes, and country can no longer fight two conflicts at once.
“I will not cut our military by $1 trillion,” he says.
9:40 p.m.—Obama interjects: Romney has called for $5 trillion in tax cuts, paid by closing deducations, and $2 trillion more in military spending that military doesn’t want.
President says spending has gone up annually during his term, “but what you can’t do is spend $2 trillion more ... $5 trillion on tax cuts.”
9:38 p.m.—Schieffer asks Romney, if you want bigger military, “where are you going to get the money?”
Romney says he will cut 5 percent of discretionary spending, including Obamacare.
“There are a number of things that sound good, but, frankly, we can’t afford them,” he says.
He also says that by shifting programs to states, federal government can save money
9:37 p.m.—“Let me get back to foreign policy,” says Schieffer.
Before he can, though, Romney insists on recounting the strong education record Massachusetts acquired under his tenure.
9:36 p.m.—“I’ll get us on track to a balanced budget,” and away from country “from becoming another Greece,” says Romney.
President retorts that when he was governor of Massachusetts, job creation in state was 47th in country.
Then Obama continues to use this foreign policy debate to talk about domestic policy, highlighting his support for teacher hiring and class-size reduction.
9:34 p.m.—Romney pivots from “wrong and reckless” allegation to complete recitation of his five-point economic plan.
9:31 p.m.—Obama replies, “America remains the one indispensible nation,” and country “is stronger now than when I came into office.”
He says ending war in Iraq has saved country money and allowed country to refocus on alliances that had been neglected or frayed.
“What we also have been able to do is reposition so we can start rebuilding America,” says president, as he shifts to touting his domestic economic agenda.
Complains that Romney economic agenda will not reduce the deficit.
“Both at home and abroad, he has proposed wrong and reckless policies,” says president.
9:29 p.m.—Schieffer segues to third segment: What is America’s role in the world?
Romney says US “has the responsibilty and the privilege” to protect and promote freedom.
We are exactly half-hour through debate and both candidates have had exactly the same amount of speaking time, even though it has seemed that the president has spoken more than Romney.
9:26 p.m.—Romney says he would have supported Obama’s approach to ouster of Mubarak in Egypt, but again, he argues at margin for a change in approach to whole region beforehand.
“Once it exploded, I felt the same as the president did,” says Romney.
He then steps back to broader foreign vision: “For us to be able to promote those principles of peace requires us to be strong.”
He transitions to pitch for strong military and low national debt to have a vibrant economy.
9:24 p.m.—Obama retorts, “The governor doesn’t have different ideas because we’re doing exactly what we’re supposed to be doing.”
This debate shows the president—who took office, remember, with almost no foreign policy experience—in a new comfort zone.
There is no way a former businessman can have this same familiarity at this stage in his candidacy because he isn’t inundated with it like the president.
9:22 p.m.—Returning to success in Libya, Obama uses it as primer for his style of diplomacy and contrast with Romney’s foreign policy vision.
Schieffer asks if Romney would go further than Obama, say, with no-fly zones.
Romney says no, no US military engagement. Rather, he favors helping insurgents.
“With our partners in the region, we have sufficient resources,” says Romney.
9:20 p.m.—“This is a critical opportunity for America,” he says, and US risks squandering it by taking a back seat to the United Nations and Russia.
President retorts: “We are playing a leadership role.”
9:19 p.m.—Romney, staying calm as he discusses an area not of great familiarity to him, shows that he has been studying issues by moving through answer with delberation.
Agrees that US arms can’t end up in wrong hands, “but the Saudis, Qatari, and the Turks are all concerned about this.”
9:18 p.m.—Obama says scene in Syria “heartbreaking,” but to get more entangled militarily “is a serious step” and we don’t want to arm possible enemies.
“I am confident that Assad’s days are numbered,” says president.
9:16 p.m.—Schieffer moves discussion to Syria, noting war there seems to be spilling over to Lebanon.
Moderator asks president: “Should we reassess our policy and see if we can find a better way to influence events there?” Schieffer notes 30,000 have died since Obama said Assad had to go.
9:14 p.m.—Romney comes back to Obama, saying he agrees that Russia is not a threat, but adds that he also would not tell Russian Prime Minister Putin that he would have more flexibility after the election.
Romney says he would see more “backbone.”
The candidates are now disagreeing over their positions on continued troop presence in Iraq.
9:13 p.m.—Romney, more reserved this time, says he doesn’t agree with that recounting of his record.
“Attacking me is not an agenda,” says Romney.
9:12 p.m.—Obama says that Romney recently said Russia was the country’s biggest geopolitical foe.
“The 1980s are calling asking for their foreign policy back,” and says, “Every time you’ve been asked to render a foreign policy view, you’ve been wrong.”
9:11 p.m.—Romney says: “It’s wonderful that Libya seems to be making some progress, ... but next door we have Egypt.”
He adds: “This is a region in tumult.”
9:09 p.m.—Obama ends by accusing Romney of having a strategy “all over the map.”
Romney says he wants to kill “bad guys,” but has to go after “jihadists”and leaders of anti-US sentiment.
9:07 p.m.—Obama says his first responsibility is to keep country safe, implying that there hasn’t been a terrorist attack on his watch, and that he has “decimated” al Qaeda leadership.
Then says he went after the attackers of the Benghazi attackers.
Also reminds that for the cost of less than two weeks in Iraq, his administration created a regime change in Libya without the cost of a single American life.
9:05 p.m—Romney opens with joke about how they were last together last week at a roast in New York. Says debate is an occasion to be funny without intention.
Then he turns serious, says the attack in Libya is deadly serious, and part of unrest through region.
“What we’re seeing is a pretty dramatic reversal of hopes we had for that region,” says Romney, before adding that while Obama got bin Laden, “We can’t kill our way out of this.”
Says US must reject radical Islam.
9:03 p.m.—Schieffer notes debate coincides with 50th anniversary of Cuban Missile Crisis.
Says it is “sobering reminder” of how foreign affairs concerns can pop up at any time.
First question to Romney: You labeled it part of an “unraveling foreign policy.” How?
9:02 p.m.—Schieffer invites the candidates on stage, and they shake hands at center stage.
“Good to see you again,” Romney says to president.
He will be seated at Stage Right, the president at Stage Left.
9:01 p.m.—Schieffer has begun his opening, bringing the conversation to the debate hall itself.
9 p.m.—The debate hour has arrived. The networks are now in their broadcast openings before the candidates take the stage.
Mitt Romney will get final closing, or, the last word.
8:55 p.m.—Schieffer—who wears lavender socks, totes a lavender binder in homage to the colors of his homestate TCU.
8:53 p.m.—Schieffer has taken the debate stage.
8:49 p.m.—The challenge for both candidates—but Romney in particular—is shifting answers in a debate supposedly focused on foreign policy to the topic of the economy.
Look for some deft segues.
8:48 p.m.—We also have a Monday Night Football game on TV tonight, too.
Chance for fractured audience on issue—foreign policy—that doesn’t rate as high as economy in polls on voter concerns.
8:46 p.m.—Both Ann Romney and Michelle Obama have entered the debate hall and taken their respective seats.
8:44 p.m.—Interesting dynamic, as St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants play Game 7 of the National League Championship Series at same time as debate.
8:38 p.m.—This will be a close-quarters debate, with the candidates sitting next to each other and across the table from moderator Bob Schieffer.
8:28 p.m.—Obama has arrived at the debate hall, per the White House pool report.
8:12p.m.—Senator John Kerry, who played Romney for the president’s debate preparation sessions, appeared in the media filing center again tonight and slammed Romney’s foreign policy knowledge.
Have to think it’s like trying to ice the kicker: get in his head before the big play.
7:55 p.m.—Mitt Romney has arrived at Lynn University for his third and final debate with President Obama.
Each of his five sons tagged along in two vans dubbed “Family 1” and “Family 2.”
From the crowd I’ve seen in some Christmas card photos, surprised they didn’t need “Family 3,” “Family 4,” and “Family 5.”