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Delray beach, Florida: Barack Obama and Mitt Romney took their head-to-head battle for the US presidency to key swing states yesterday after a feisty but inconclusive final debate.
Post debate polling showed Obama winning Monday night’s faceoff but analysts said Romney, who adopted more dovish-sounding foreign policy prescriptions that differed little from the president’s, may have been helped by the encounter.
“The fact that Mr Romney was able to show himself to not be the dangerous, wild conservative that Obama has been trying to portray him as, that may help him,” said Christopher Arterton, a political science professor at George Washington University.
“That may continue some of the flight that we have seen towards Romney, particularly in states he has to win, Florida and Ohio”.
The focus will likely return to the economy as the two campaign in the key battlegrounds expected to decide the election, with the president speaking in Florida and Ohio and his Republican rival heading west to Nevada and Colorado.
Economic woes loom far larger than any foreign threat, and it will take several days to gauge whether Monday’s clash had any impact on tied up polls with two weeks to go before the November 6 elections.
Obama had the best lines of the night and sharply cross-examined Romney on his approach to Syria, Iran and trade rows with China, accusing him of “airbrushing history” by dumping earlier hawkish conservative positions.
“I know you haven’t been in a position to actually execute foreign policy, but every time you’ve offered an opinion, you’ve been wrong,” Obama said, accusing his opponent of being “all over the map” on a wide range of issues.
The Republican, who has spent months attempting to paint the president as a weak appeaser, took a milder tone, actually backing much of the substance of the current administration’s global strategy.
In a clear bid to moderate his image, Romney endorsed Obama’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, supported the president’s lethal drone war against terror suspects and congratulated him on hunting down Osama bin Laden.
Oddly, neither candidate mentioned the eurozone crisis — widely seen as the country’s biggest external economic threat.