Iraq and Afghanistan: Ending the Wars
Ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are central to Obama's foreign policy re-election message. Obama, who ran on a platform of ending the Iraq war and refocusing U.S. efforts on al Qaeda in Afghanistan, announced that the last troops pulled out of Iraq at the beginning of 2012. And the last surge troops left Afghanistan in September, and the U.S. and NATO allies plan to drawdown troops in the country by 2014.
Romney will acknowledge the ending of the war in Iraq, the drawdown in Afghanistan and perhaps Obama's greatest foreign policy achievement, the killing of Osama bin Laden early in the debate as he has done in other foreign policy speeches.
Romney and Obama agree on the 2014 date to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. However, Romney has said that his drawdown will be guided by "conditions on the ground" and "the best advice of our military commanders."
Both candidates may also be asked to weigh in on the surge of so-called "green on blue" violence in Afghanistan, where Afghan soldiers turn their weapons on the American and NATO troops who train them. Those attacks have accounted for more than 15 percent of coalition casualties so far in 2012, which is more than double the rate of casualties in 2011.
Syria: Humanitarian Crisis
The uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has continued for 19 months without much evidence that a cease-fire is near in that conflict, which has killed more than 30,000 civilians.
The Obama administration has provided nonmilitary aid to the Syrian rebels and has supported international actors in pursuing a cease-fire but has been slow to provide arms and weapons to the rebels. Romney has been sharply critical of Obama's handling of the humanitarian crisis in Syria. He has pledged to increase sanctions against Assad's regime and arm rebel forces.
Both candidates may be asked to outline their criteria for intervening in a humanitarian crisis like the one in Syria.
Currently, a United Nations and Arab League peace envoy is reportedly working to negotiate a cease-fire between Assad and rebel forces. Two other Middle Eastern countries that are central to the conflict in Syria are Turkey, which has supported the rebels and is an ally of the United States, and Iran, which is widely considered to be Syria's closest ally in the region.
China: Currency Manipulation and Outsourcing
When Obama and Romney memorably locked horns over China in the second presidential debate last week, it was over two issues: outsourcing of jobs and currency manipulation.
The president accused Romney of investing in companies that outsourced jobs to China and Romney, insisting that he would label China as a currency manipulator "on day one" of his presidency.
Currency manipulation is the practice of undervaluing the Chinese yuan on the global market so that products sold from China are cheaper than U.S.-made products.
Both candidates say that a top priority of their administrations would be to encourage companies to create jobs in the U.S. and not in low-wage countries such as China.
In the past, Obama has said that he would "close loopholes" that give companies incentives to hire workers oversees. And on the issue of currency manipulation, the Obama administration has steered away from officially labeling China a currency manipulator, despite calls from Republicans and from within his own party to do so.