Monday's’s final presidential debate centering on foreign affairs was once expected to be a slam dunk for Barack Obama but recent events have intervened to poke holes in what had been seen as the president’s strong suit.
Obama has enjoyed strong support for his handling of foreign affairs — an area that has traditionally been Republican turf — aided by the fact that Osama bid Laden was killed on his watch. Additionally, neither Mitt Romney nor his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan had much in the way of foreign policy experience.
However, since events in Libya and the Mideast and the president’s poor performance in the first debate, his standing on foreign policy management has significantly eroded.
An October poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, found that Obama led Romney just 47 percent to 43 percent on the question of who can do a better job on making foreign policy decisions. Romney had trailed the president on this issue by 15 points in September.
Intervening between those two polls was the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The Romney campaign has attacked the Obama administration’s handling of the event, questioning whether there was adequate security at the consulate and the administrations slowness to recognize the attack as terrorism.
The killings also figured prominently in the Oct. 16 presidential 'town hall ' debate. The charges appear to be resonating with the public as 38 percent disapprove of the administration’s handling of the event, with 35 percent approving and 27 percent expressing no opinion.
“This is going to be a case study, studied for years, of a breakdown of national security at every level, failed presidential leadership — senior members of the Obama administration failed miserably,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said on “Fox News Sunday."
Romney is also not far behind the president on other Mideast issues. On dealing with the instability in Egypt and Libya, Obama leads 47 to 42 percent and holds a slim, one-point advantage on dealing with Iran’s nuclear program 45 to 44 percent.
Also likely to figure prominently in the debate, moderated by veteran CBS newsman Bob Schieffer, is trade policy with China.
Both sides have jockeyed for position on the issue with Romney promising to get tough on China’s trade dominance while Obama has charged that his GOP challenger is part of the problem, supporting the outsourcing of American jobs there while at Bain Capital.
However, in the Pew poll, Romney had a clear edge on the issue with voters. The poll found the former Massachusetts governor leading Obama by nine points on the question of who could do a better job in dealing with China’s trade policies.
The poll found Romney leading on the question 49 to 40 percent and holding a 16-point advantage with independent voters, leading 50 to 34 percent.
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