Presidential Debate: Fact Check and Live Blog

By ABC News

Oct 22, 2012 5:40pm

ABC  News is live blogging and fact checking the third and final presidential debate, which is focused on foreign policy, moderated by CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer, and held at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.

Anchored live stream coverage from ABC News Political Director Amy Walter, GMA Weekend anchor Dan Harris and Yahoo! News White House correspondent Olivier Knox kicked of at 8 p.m. ET. Watch it at abcn.ws/live

TV coverage with ABC’s Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos kicked off just before the debate starts at 9 p.m. ET.

Fact Check: Romney did suggest post-bankruptcy financing guarantees for auto industry
11:20 p.m. ET

The most contentious moment of the night came during a discussion of the Detroit auto bailout that was begun in the Bush administration and carried on by President Obama.Mitt Romney has long said that he opposed the bailout and he wrote a New York Times Op-Ed in November of 2008 that suggested instead of infusing taxpayer dollars into the industry, it should be taken through a managed bankruptcy.GM and Chrysler eventually did go through a managed bankruptcy, but only after an infusion of $80 billion taxpayer dollars. The Obama administration’s former car czar, Steven Rattner, has said that at the time there was no private money willing to go into the auto industry.

But at Monday’s debate Romney softened his anti-bailout rhetoric and said his plan actually did call for government guarantees all along.

Obama said it didn’t. And the two sparred over the point.

ROMNEY – My plan to get the industry on its feet when it was in real trouble was not to start writing checks, it was President Bush that wrote the first checks, I disagreed with that. I said these companies need to go through a managed bankruptcy and in that process they can get government help and government guarantees but they need to go thru a bankruptcy to get rid of excess costs and the debt burden that they had built up and fortunately…

OBAMA – Gov Romney, that is not what you said.

ROMNEY – You can take a look at the Op/Ed

OBAMA – Governor Romney you did not say that you would provide governor (sic) help.

ROMNEY – I am still speaking. I said that we would provide guarantees and that was able to allow these companies to go thru bankruptcy to come out of bankruptcy under no circumstances would I do anything other than to help this industry get on its feet (44). And the idea that has been suggested that I would liquidate the industry– of course not. Of course not.

OBAMA – Lets check the record

ROMNEY – That is the height of silliness. I have never said I would liquidate the industry.

OBAMA – Governor, the people of Detroit don’t forget. (cross talk)

ROMNEY – I want to keep the industry growing and thriving. That is why I have the kind of commitment to make sure that our industry in this country can compete and be successful.

OBAMA – Look, I think anybody out there can check the record Governor Romney you keep on trying to airbrush history here. You were very clear that you would not provide government assistance to the US auto companies even if they went thru bankruptcy. You said that they could get it in the private market place. That wasn’t true They would have gone thru…

ROMNEY -You are wrong Mr President, you are wrong

OBAMA – I am not wrong

ROMNEY – People can look that up, you are right.

OBAMA – People will look it up.

We did. And it turns out that Romney DID in that original Op-Ed, at the very end, say that there should be post-bankruptcy guarantees for financing.

“The federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and assure car buyers that their warranties are not at risk,” he wrote.

It is not clear if such post-bankruptcy guarantees could have freed up pre-bankruptcy financing. And it is not something Romney has advertised on the campaign trail. But it is accurate.

Skip To…

★ Fact Check: Romney did suggest post-bankruptcy financing guarantees for auto industry
★ Romney’s Education Record in Massachusetts
★ A Shrinking Navy?
★ Was Obama Silent During Iran’s Green Revolution?
★ Foreign Policy Gives Way to Education?
★ Did Romney Say We Should Still Have Troops in Iraq?
★ Romney Before the Debate
★ Obama Zinger: 1980s Want Their Foreign Policy Back
★ Jake Tapper’s Comments on Atmosphere at Last Debate
★ Boehner Makes Off-Color Joke About His Last Name
★ Romney Opts for Quinoa Burger
★ Foreign policy crash course: Libya!, Iran!, Israel, more!
★ Why Obama should have an edge on foreign policy
★ Obama bear hugger invited to debate

Best Gestures of the Debate
10:55 p.m. ET

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Image credit: Rick Wilking/AP Photo

The president putting out a hand to his opponent. Romney showing the size of the problem with his hands. Even Obama shaking the hand of a pint-sized Romney grandson. Take a look back at photos of some of the best gestures of this debate and debates past with ABC’s slideshow here.

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Romney’s Education Record in Massachusetts
10:42 p.m. ET

ROMNEY: I’m so proud of the state that I had a chance to be governor of. We have every two years tests that look at how well our kids are doing. 4th graders and 8th graders are tested in English and Math. While I was governor, I was proud that our 4th graders came out number one of all states in English. And then also in Math. And our 8th graders, number one in English, and also in Math. First time one state had been number one in all four measures. How do we do that? Well, Republicans and Democrats came together on a bipartisan basis to put in place education principles that focused on having great teachers in the class room. [Obama: 10 years earlier]. And that was what allowed us to become the number one state in the nation. [Obama: But that was 10 years before you took office and then you cut education when you came into office]. The first – and we kept our schools number one in the nation, they’re still number one today. And the principles that we put into place, we also gave kids not just a graduation exam that determined whether they were up to the skills needed to be able to compete, but also if they graduated in the top quarter of their class, they got a four-year tuition free ride at any Massachusetts public institution of higher learning.

OBAMA: That happened before you came into office, Governor.

ROMNEY: No, that was actually mine, Mr. President. You got that fact wrong.

ABC’s John R. Parkinson and Jason Ryan report:

Romney served as governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. It is true that Massachusetts led these areas in Math and English scores for the National Assessment of Educational Progress during different periods of Romney’s tenure as governor. The scores remain above the national average.

So how much did Romney have to do with these numbers? When Obama says these achievements were the result of reforms that happened 10 years before Romney took office, he is referencing a 1993 state law that led to the creation of the state accountability system, which became the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System. It also authorized charter schools and invested more money in local school districts with the goal of improving standards for Massachusetts students, and it apparently worked. Trends show statewide results improved in the years leading into Romney’s term but did not reach the reach the top of the rankings until Romney took office as governor. Here is a table from the National Center for Education Statistics showing data from 1990 to 2011.

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‘Walmart Moms’ Not Enthusiastic About Foreign Policy Debate
10:30 p.m. ET

ABC’s Elizabeth Hartfield has been monitoring the sentiment of a focus group of “Walmart moms” in Orlando. She finds they are not responding in any real, enthusiastic ways to this debate. Obama and Romney are both getting solid marks, above the line, but there were no high spikes on the dials for either candidate in the first 30 minutes.

One notable minute within the first 30 minutes came during Obama and Romney’s argument about keeping troops in Iraq. The response on the dials reiterated how unpopular the Iraq war was/remains. Romney gets a dip when Obama accuses him of advocating to keep troops in Iraq, and when Obama refutes this idea, his numbers climb up.

It appears as though Walmart moms get notably more engaged when the discussion turns to domestic policy and the U.S. military.

    1. Dials climb consistently as Romney talks about his track record on education as Gov of MA; start to drop as Obama interrupts him.
    2. Dials dip slightly when Romney invites people to take a look at details on website, but begin to climb a little when he says he’ll get rid of Obamacare; more when he talks about giving Medicaid to states.
    3. Moms respond positively to Obama noting that Romney’s math doesn’t work and that he wants to spend $2 trillion that the military isn’t asking for.
    4. They like it when Romney talks about Republicans and Democrats working together to balance his MA budget; they like it when Obama talks about teachers. This has been consistent throughout the three presidential debates. Women respond very well to Romney’s cooperation in Massachusetts, and they respond well when either candidate talks about hiring more teachers.
    5. #1 job of POTUS is protecting the safety of American people–a strong line when both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney say it.

 

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A Shrinking Navy?
10:23 p.m. ET


ROMNEY: Our Navy is old — excuse me, our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We’re now at under 285. We’re headed down to the low 200s if we go through a sequestration. That’s unacceptable to me.The Washington Post gave this claim three Pinocchios.

ABC’s Luis Martinez has the facts:

There are currently 285 ships in the Navy’s fleet.

A report by Naval History and Heritage Command provides a look at the decrease in the number of Navy ships over the past 50 years since the peak during World War Two.

According to this study in 1917 the U. S. Navy had 245 ships. From that date on until 2003 the Navy maintained more than 300 ships in the fleet. The number of ships in the fleet fell to its lowest point in 2006 when there were 278 ships in the fleet. Since then the number of ships has increased to the current 285.

Beginning in 2011 the US Navy began adding two new submarines a year instead of the one a year it had been buying. The Navy is expected to add two Virginia Class attack submarines a year through fiscal year 2016. Romney aides have said he would like to see three new Virginia attack submarines added per year.

Obama replied:

“But I think Governor Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.

And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we’re counting slips. It’s what are our capabilities. And so when I sit down with the Secretary of the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we determine how are we going to be best able to meet all of our defense needs in a way that also keeps faith with our troops, that also makes sure that our veterans have the kind of support that they need when they come home.

And that is not reflected in the kind of budget that you’re putting forward because it just doesn’t work.

And ABC’s Luis Martinez adds that yes, the U.S. military – both the Army and Marines still use bayonets.

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Fact or Fiction: Obama’s Apology Tour
10:17 p.m. ET

ROMNEY: “The President began what I’ve called an apology tour of going to various nations in the Middle East and criticizing America. I think they looked at that and saw weakness.”ABC’s Matthew Larotonda has the facts:

Independent fact check organizations have poured over the rhetoric of diplomatic apologies repeatedly during this election, and the results have been mostly in opposition. Most recently the governor has brought it into reference of the administration’s response to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.

Further back, the idea of an Obama “ apology tour” has been a recurring attack for conservatives for a long time and has its roots in diplomatic travel the president undertook in 2009 shortly after taking office. Romney himself first took up the phrase in 2010 with his book, “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness,” and has repeated the theme continuously on the campaign trail.

“In his first nine months in office, President Obama has issued apologies and criticisms of America in speeches in France, England, Turkey, and Cairo; at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and the United Nations in New York City,” the book reads in its first chapter.

President Obama never formally regrets American policy during these speeches, rather taking a tone of reciprocal blame at times for diplomatic ties that may have been strained. At other times the president is drawing a distinction between his policies and those of his predecessor, President George W. Bush.

During the 2009 Cairo speech for example, Obama comes close to regretting American actions in Iran during the overthrow of the Shah. But he immediately counters by pointing the finger at subsequent regimes for continued hostility.

“In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government,” he said. “Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known.”

On his first visit to France, Obama again seemed to take responsibility for declining attitudes toward Americans abroad, for policies that have shown “arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.” But on the flip side he immediately derided Europeans for “casual” and “insidious” anti-Americanism.

“On both sides of the Atlantic these attitudes have become all too common,” he said. “They are not wise. They do not represent the truth. They threaten to widen the divide across the Atlantic and leave us more isolated.”

All of these remarks fall short of formally apologizing for American diplomacy, but some of the president’s most conciliatory remarks have come regarding the detainees of Guantanamo Bay. At the 2009 National Archives speech on terrorism, Obama said the military prison’s use was “based on fear than foresight,” and that “it likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.”

 

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Was Obama Silent During Iran’s Green Revolution?
9:55 p.m. ET

Romney: When the students took to the streets in Tehran and the people there protested, the Green Revolution occurred for the President to be silent I thought was an enormous mistake.

ABC’s Dana Hughes, Sarah Parnass and Serena Marshall have the facts:

Romney has repeatedly accused President Obama of sitting on the sidelines during the protests in Iran that followed a disputed presidential election on June 12, 2009.

But the president was not entirely silent. Three days after the election, Obama said in a press avail:

“I want to start off by being very clear that it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be; that we respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran, which sometimes the United States can be a handy political football — or discussions with the United States.

Having said all that, I am deeply troubled by the violence that I’ve been seeing on television. I think that the democratic process — free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent — all those are universal values and need to be respected. And whenever I see violence perpetrated on people who are peacefully dissenting, and whenever the American people see that, I think they’re, rightfully, troubled.
My understanding is, is that the Iranian government says that they are going to look into irregularities that have taken place. We weren’t on the ground, we did not have observers there, we did not have international observers on hand, so I can’t state definitively one way or another what happened with respect to the election.”

It wasn’t until 8 days later when Obama held a press conference on June 23, 2009 that he strongly spoke out:

“The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost. I’ve made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not interfering with Iran’s affairs. But we must also bear witness to the courage and the dignity of the Iranian people, and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore the violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place.”

Secretary Clinton clarified the Obama Administration’s actions in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on 8/9/09.

Clinton said that the Obama administration was trying to balance leaving the revolution in the hands of the protesters with intervening behind the scenes.

“We knew that, if we stepped in too soon, too hard, the attention might very well shift and the leadership would try to use us to unify the country against the protesters,” Clinton said. “Now, behind the scenes, we were doing a lot, as you know. One of our young people in the State Department got twittered, you know, ‘Keep going,’ despite the fact that they had planned for a technical shutdown. So, we were doing a lot to really empower the protesters without getting in the way. And we’re continuing to speak out and support the opposition.”

The request by the member of the State Department that Clinton referenced spurred criticism for the administration. Technology and social movement researcher Evgeny Morozov wrote in his book, “The Net Delusion,” that because of this incident, Iranian officials came to see the Internet as a way for the West to infiltrate Iran and may have led to the arrests of Iranian bloggers.

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Romney’s Recommendations on Libya
9:54 p.m. ET


OBAMA: To the governor’s credit you supported us going into Libya and the coalition that we organized but when it came time to making sure that Kaddafi didn’t stay in power, that he was captured, Governor your suggestion was that this was mission creep, that this was mission muddle. Imagine if we had pulled out at that time.ABC’s Serena Marshall and Chris Good have the facts:Obama is referring to Romney’s op-ed titled “Mission Middle” posted at Nationalreview.com on April 21. He wrote that he had supported President Obama’s “specific, limited mission,” which he said the president had defined “as humanitarian: We would enforce a no-fly zone to prevent Libyan forces from bombing civilians. I support that.”

But noting that President Obama had joined UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in an op-ed that said “to succeed, Qaddafi must go and go for good,” Romney attacked the president, saying, “(i)t is apparent that our military is engaged in much more than enforcing a no-fly zone. What we are watching in real time is another example of mission creep and mission muddle.”

Later, after Qaddafi’s death Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom said: “Mitt Romney supported the initial humanitarian mission-as articulated by President Obama-to enforce a no-fly zone. As the mission went on, however, it became clear that President Obama had no idea about his intentions in Libya and that’s when Mitt warned against mission muddle and mission creep. The fall from power and subsequent death of Qaddafi brings to end a brutal chapter in Libya’s history-but that does not validate the president’s approach to Libya. The credit goes to the people of Libya.”

Romney supported involvement, but he criticized the multilateral approach in a March 21, 2011 interview with Hugh Hewitt, saying “we’re following the French into Libya” and suggesting Obama delegated U.S. foreign policy to the U.N.

HH: What is your reaction to President Obama’s announcement of air strikes on Libya?
MR: Well, first, I support military action in Libya. I support our troops there and the mission that they’ve been given. But let me also note that thus far, the President has been unable to construct a foreign policy, any foreign policy. I think it’s fair to ask, you know, what is it that explains the absence of any discernable foreign policy from the president of the United States? And I believe that it flows from his fundamental disbelief in American exceptionalism. In the President’s world, all nations have common interests, the lines between good an evil are blurred, America’s history merits apology. And without a compass to guide him in our increasingly turbulent world, he’s tentative, indecisive, timid and nuanced. And as a result, I think, he says, for instance, he’s committed to our success in Afghanistan unless it means commitment beyond 2011. He stands with our ally, Israel, but condemns its settlement policy even more forcefully than he condemns Hamas’ rockets. And he calls for the removal of Muammar Gaddafi, but then conditions our action on the directions we get from the Arab League and the United Nations.

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Foreign Policy Gives Way to Education?
9:48 p.m. ET

How did a debate about foreign policy turn into a discussion of education policy and deficits?

ABC’s Devin Dwyer points out Obama campaign aides say their internal polling/focus-grouping finds small class sizes and teacher hiring is a hugely salient issue for women and swing voters in key states.

The president made a point to raise those issues tonight making a clear play for those voters.

Also worth noting that Obama right now has education-focused TV ads. — hitting Romney on teacher hires and class sizes — running in six battlegrounds (launched 10/18).

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Romney Channels Ahmadinejad
9:40 p.m. ET

ABC’s Michael Falcone reports: This already provoking a lot of chatter — Mitt Romney paraphrased a quote from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in order to show how the growing U.S. debt is weakening the U.S. at home and abroad.

Here’s the Ahmadinejad quote Romney was referring to, per the Jerusalem Post:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad predicted the impending downfall of the “US empire,” blaming the collapse on a combination of the country’s massive debt and its loss of legitimacy within the international community, Iran’s official news agency IRNA reported Thursday.
“How long can a government with a $16 trillion foreign debt remain a world power?” he asked at a press conference with Kuwaiti media personnel. “The Americans have injected their paper wealth into the world economy and today the aftermaths and negative effects of their pseudo-wealth have plagued them.”
He added: “An empire, or a government, remains in power so long as the people under its power support it, but today the Americans have acted in a way that the world nations do not like them at all, and therefore, their international legitimacy is annihilated.”

Some prominent liberal voices have already pounced on the example Romney used:

@PaulBegala: Romney quotes Ahmadinejad on US debt. Really? Is that who he turns to for wisdom?

@ariannahuff: Romney citing Ahmadinejad on US economic policy. There must be better sources.

Some conservatives, however, liked it:

@hughhewitt: Romney projecting peace as our goal and requiring strength and a strong economy. Great citation to Ahmadinejad taunt on debt#debate

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Did Romney Say We Should Still Have Troops in Iraq?
9:36 p.m. ET

Obama: Just a few weeks ago you said you think we should have more troops in Iraq right now and the challenge we have, I know you have not been in a position to actually execute foreign policy, but every time you have offered an opinion you have been wrong.

ABC’s Luis Martinez has the facts:

It is true that Mitt Romney was critical of President Obama’s decision to pull combat troops out of Iraq. And on Oct. 8th, during a foreign policy speech he delivered at the Virginia Military Institute, Romney said the pullout from Iraq was too abrupt .

“In Iraq, the costly gains made by our troops are being eroded by rising violence, a resurgent Al-Qaeda, the weakening of democracy in Baghdad, and the rising influence of Iran. And yet, America’s ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence. The President tried—and failed—to secure a responsible and gradual drawdown that would have better secured our gains,” Romney said at VMI.

Read the transcript of Romney’s VMI speech. .

Romney’s speech does not specifically say he would prefer to still have American combat troops still in Iraq. But it does clearly imply the president’s pullout was too fast.
He was critical of the president while the pullout was occurring too. At a November 11, 2011 roundtable meeting with veterans in South Carolina, Romney criticized the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq was a mistake.

“You probably know that it is my view that the withdrawal of all of our troops from Iraq by the end of this year is an enormous mistake and a failing by the Obama administration. Secretary Panetta and others had indicated they were working to put in place a Status of Forces Agreement to maintain our presence there, so that we could most effectively transition to the Iraqi military and Iraqi security forces providing security for their country,” Romney said.

“The precipitous withdrawal is unfortunate. It’s more than unfortunate. I think it’s tragic. It puts at risk many of the victories that were hard-won by the men and women who have served there. I hope the risk is not realized. I hope instead that the Iraqis are able to pick up the baton, and despite the fact that we will have walked away on a too-rapid basis.”

It is also true that the Obama administration actually wanted to keep troops in the country for a while longer.

In October the talks between the U.S. and Iraq intended to extend the U.S. military presence in Iraq beyond the pullout date of December 2011 collapsed. President Obama announced that all U.S. troops would pull out by the end of 2011. Gen. Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee on December 15, 2011 that the U.S. was seeking to keep 3,000 American troops beyond the pullout date. He said that the proposals had originally started with keeping 16,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, then was revised downward to 10,000. Dempsey told Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that no U.S. military commander had recommended a complete U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

The last combat troops left Iraq in December of 2011. Read more about the pullout here.

How many troops would Romney have kept in Iraq if the talks with that country had been successful?

According to the Mother Jones transcript of the video of his secret May 17 47% speech Romney said:

“And the American people are not concentrated at all on China, on Russia, Iran, Iraq. This president’s failure to put in place a status forces agreement allowing 10-20,000 troops to stay in Iraq? Unthinkable!”

This number is consistent with what Romney said back in December, 2011 on an appearance on Fox and Friends Romney said he would have sought a deal that would have kept between 10 and 30,000 US troops in Iraq beyond 2011.

“Well, first of all if I were president, I would have carried out the status of forces agreement that was long anticipated that actually Secretary Panetta, President Obama, Secretary of Defense indicated he wanted to have as well, which would have allowed to us have somewhere between 10 and 30,000 troops in Iraq,” Romney said.

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Romney Would Reduce Foreign Aid
9:15 p.m. ET

Romney said he wants to help countries in the Mideast to foster development.

But it would not be through direct aid.

Here’s a line from his website: “Reduce Foreign Aid — Savings: $100 Million. Stop borrowing money from countries that oppose America’s interests in order to give it back to them in the form of foreign aid.”

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Obama Zinger: 1980s Want Their Foreign Policy Back
9:10 p.m. ET


Romney: Russia I indicated is a geo-political foe not a – Obama: Our number 1 geo-political foe Romney: Excuse me. It’s a geo-political foe and I said in the same paragraph and I said in the same paragraph and I said Iran is the greatest national security threat we face. Russia does continue to battle us in the UN time and time again. I have clear eyes on this. I’m not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia or Mr. Putin and I’m certainly not going to say to him I’ll give you more flexibility after the election.  After the election he’ll get more backbone.

ABC’s Kirit Radia predicted foreign policy towards Russia would be on the table tonight, and from the very beginning he was right.

Less than ten minutes into the debate, President Obama told Romney that the 1980s “want their foreign policy back,” referencing Romney’s earlier comment in an interview with CNN in March, where he called Russia the United States’ “number one geopolitical foe.”

Read more from Kirit here.

But Romney pointed out that though he named Russia as the top geo-political foe, he called Iran the largest security threat.  That’s correct.

“Well, I’m saying in terms of a geopolitical opponent, the nation that lines up with the world’s worst actors,” Romney said in reference to Russia on CNN on March 26. “Of course, the greatest threat that the world faces is a nuclear Iran. A nuclear North Korea is already troubling enough.” Read the rest of the transcript from CNN here.

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ABC / Washington Post Poll: Obama – 49, Romney – 48
5:00 p.m. ET

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Image credit: ABC News | The Washington Post Poll

Mitt Romney carries newfound competitiveness in trust to handle international issues into the final presidential debate, combined with his highest personal popularity of the 2012 campaign. But continued weakness in his perceived economic priorities is keeping the race a close one.

Among other shifts, after last week’s second debate, which included a spirited exchange on women in the workplace, the contest now has its largest gender gap of the season – a 14-point lead for Barack Obama among women, vs. a 12-point advantage for Romney among men.

The result, as in previous ABC News/Washington Post polls since late summer, is essentially a dead heat between the candidates overall. In the first of what will be daily ABC/Post tracking polls for the rest of the contest, 49 percent of likely voters back Obama, 48 percent Romney.

See PDF with full results and charts here.

With tonight’s debate focused on foreign policy, the poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds Romney virtually tied with Obama in trust to handle international affairs (49-46 percent, Obama-Romney) and terrorism (47-46 percent), as well as to serve as commander-in-chief of the armed services (48-45 percent). That reflects a shift in Romney’s favor; Obama led on terrorism by 11 points as recently as Sept. 29, and on international affairs by 7 points earlier this month.

Read more from ABC pollster Gary Langer.

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Lynn U T-Shirts: ‘We’ve Never Heard of You Either’
8:56p.m. ET

ABC’s Jake Tapper tweets: Lynn U. debate shirts have emblazoned on back “We’ve never heard of YOU either” — CPD co chair Fahrenkopf shows off.

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Romney Before the Debate
8:54 p.m. ET

ABC News’ Emily Friedman reports:

At the first presidential debate in Denver, Colorado, Romney was photographed playing the game Jenga – which involves building a tall tower out of small wooden blocks without the structure collapsing. The former Massachusetts governor took a hiatus from Jenga for the second debate.

Tonight, the game is back.

Romney’s personal aide Garrett Jackson tweeted a photo of the game being played by three of Romney’s grandsons in the hold room backstage at Lynn University.

“The Jenga set is back. Grandkids are loving it,” Jackson tweeted, with a photo.

A subsequent tweet read, “Romney’s having a great time before start of the debate.”

Friedman also adds Ann Romney’s green dress with floral skirt is Oscar de La Renta.

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Jake Tapper’s Comments on the Atmosphere at the Last Debate
8:49 p.m. ET

This is the smallest arena yet of the four debate halls.

It is a very small crowd – maybe 300 individuals.

There are some political luminaries in the crowd, including Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., former Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., casino magnate and Republican superdonor Sheldon Adelson, former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (who is now a Democrat), White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, current GOP Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., and more.

All five Romney brothers arrived with their wives.

Adelson, by the way, has a front row balcony street.

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Russia Fact Check: Romney ‘Foe or Obama ‘Reset?’
8:15 p.m. ET

MOSCOW — When Mitt Romney steps on the stage tonight in Boca Raton, Fla., to debate foreign policy with President Obama, his challenge will often be to draw a distinction between his proposals and the president’s policies. In many areas, notably Iran, their positions are very similar. But one area where the Republican candidate and the president differ sharply is on their view of Russia.

During an interview with CNN in March, Romney called Russia the United States’ “number one geopolitical foe.” But is that a fair characterization, or just campaign trail bluster? Analysts are divided, but most admit there is evidence to support both sides.

Read more from ABC’s Kirit Radia.

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Boehner Makes Off-Color Joke About His Last Name
7:36 p.m. ET

ABC’s Shush Walshe reports from Durango, Colorado that at a Ryan rally this evening, Speaker of the House John Boehner poked fun at his own last name.

“Twenty-two years ago, I was running for Congress for the first time. And you know, if they can’t say your name, they probably aren’t going to vote for you. Look at my name: Beaner. Bonner. Boner,” Boehner said.

And the laughs continued when Rep. Paul Ryan took the stage. Read on here..

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What to Look for on Twitter Tonight
7:31 p.m. ET

ABC’s Andrew Springer will be monitoring social media trends all night. But he offers this proviso:

REMEMBER: Trends aren’t the most important thing in the world. Simply because something is trending doesn’t mean it’s important… Trending is based on a secret algorithm, primarily around a term’s velocity—how fast it rises and how fasts it falls. For us, volume and unique number of tweeters are more important than velocity.

For comparison….

  1. Debate one: 10.3 Million Tweets / 2.4 million unique tweeters – The most tweeted event in US politics ever.
  2. VP Debate: 3.5 million tweets / 956k tweeters
  3. Debate two: 7.2 million tweets / 2.2 million tweeters

Data from Twitter/Social Guide Intelligence

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Romney Opts for Quinoa Burger
4:08 p.m. ET

ht romney burger wy 121021 wn Presidential Debate: Fact Check and Live Blog

Image credit: @dgjackson/Twitter

ABC’s Emily Friedman reports that on the afternoon of the final debate, Mitt Romney chowed down on a veggie burger. The VegeFi from BurgerFi in Delray Beach, Fla. is a quinoa-based burger with white cheddar, lettuce, tomato and a secret sauce made with mayonnaise and 15 other secret ingredients. Romney had Cajun fries and a vanilla milkshake along with his burger.

He ate at the same restaurant – across the street from his hotel – for dinner last night. BurgerFi tweeted shortly after his visit last night, “Gov @MittRomney likes to keep it healthy on the campaign trail. Tonight he ordered a VegeFi Burger “GreenStyle.” #Election2012″

The campaign said last night that Romney had actually ordered the VegeFi burgers for his wife and his daughter-in-law. He ate a burger.

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Who owns $16 trillion national debt?
4:00 p.m ET

Any debate on foreign affairs should include at least some mention of the U.S. national debt and which foreign countries own it. It has exploded in recent years, first under Preisdent Bush with the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan and then under President Obama with the stimulus meant to kick-start the economy. Click the image below for an infographic look at which countries own the more than $16 trillion national debt.

us lending infographic 640x360 wblog Presidential Debate: Fact Check and Live Blog

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Who gets U.S. foreign aid (besides Israel)?
4:00 p.m ET

The United States spends about 1 percent of it’s budget on foreign aid – about $35 billion in 2011. Israel is the largest single recipient. that country got about $3.1 billion in 2011. See where else the money goes by clicking on the image below.

foreign aid infographic 640x360 wblog Presidential Debate: Fact Check and Live Blog

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Why Obama should have an edge
3:00  p.m ET

On paper, President Obama should hold an edge in a debate focused on foreign policy. He can boast of giving the order for American Special Forces to carry out the operation in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden. He brought combat troops out of Iraq, ending the war that had played such a pivotal role in the two previous presidential elections. President Obama surged troops into Afghanistan, where as a candidate in 2008 he said more focus should have been in the first place during the years after 9/11. But he has set a timetable for withdrawing American troops from that country. While Romney has strongly criticized the timetable for being public, he has not made Afghanistan a main topic on the campaign trail and aides have said he would try to stick to a similar schedule for withdrawing American troops.

But with a stubbornly difficult economy, this is not an election that anyone thought would hinge on foreign affairs. That is why Republicans chose a former one term governor who has made his main pitch his career as a businessman.When Romney embarked on a mid-campaign overseas trip this summer, he was attacked by the British press over comments he made about security for the Olympics. A trip that was supposed to showcase Romney’s own experience heading the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002 instead included the London mayor leading tens of thousands in a chant against him.

Read more from ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf

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Foreign policy crash course: Libya!, Iran!, Syria!
5:20 p.m ET

ap egypt protest ll 120913 wn Presidential Debate: Fact Check and Live Blog

Image credit: Nasser Nasser/AP Photo

ABC’s Abby Phillip has what you need to know about the big foreign policy questions of the day:

Libya: the Benghazi Attack

Perhaps more than any other foreign policy issue, the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stephens has dominated headlines and has penetrated the consciousness of American voters, who are otherwise preoccupied with their own economic security.

Most recent reports indicate that an amateur anti-Islamic video was not what provoked the attacks, as the administration said originally. But recent reports also indicate that intelligence officials do not believe the attack was pre-planned.

The issue may also be Romney’s clearest opportunity to challenge Obama’s foreign policy record.

Romney has suggested that the Obama administration, for political reasons, misled the country about what triggered the attacks in Libya. Republicans have also roundly criticized Obama for saying to comedian Jon Stewart that Stevens’ death and the deaths of other Americans at the embassy were not “optimal.

Iran: Nuclear Weapons

Obama and Romney largely agree that Iran must be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons.

The Obama administration said that it has imposed strenuous sanctions on Iran, including strictly enforcing sanctions that have been in place for decades.

But Romney said in a recent foreign policy speech at the Virginia Military Institute that Obama’s foreign policy had “emboldened” Iran.

Meanwhile, a report in The New York Times over the weekend suggested that Iran had agreed to one-on-one talks with the U.S. about its nuclear plans.

Iranian officials have denied that they have agreed to any talks. Romney is likely to be questioned about his position on one-on-one talks with Iran. When asked about whether he would be open to one-on-one talks with Iran over the weekend, Romney declined to answer.

Israel

Both Obama and Romney will emphasize the importance of the U.S.’s relationship with Israel, and the U.S. commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Romney has staunchly criticized Obama for allowing his relationship with Israeli President Bibi Netanyahu to deteriorate over the course of his presidency.

Romney and Netanyahu are old friends, a friendship dating back to their days at Boston Consulting Group, when they were both business consultants.

Obama’s relationship with Netanyahu has been rocked by several public strains in the past four years, including disagreements about Israel’s expansion of settlements in the Gaza Strip. Most recently, Obama was criticized by Republicans for not meeting with Netanyahu when both leaders attended the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September, however the two did speak by phone. And in his speech at the U.N. General Assembly, Obama reiterated his commitment to a “secure Jewish state of Israel and an independent prosperous Palestine.”

Read Abby’s full report.

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Obama bear hugger invited to debate
5:35 p.m ET

ap obama bear hug jef 120912 wn Presidential Debate: Fact Check and Live Blog

Image credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo

ABC’s Mary Bruce reports: President Obama’s campaign has invited Scott Van Duzer, the bear-hugging Florida restaurant owner who gave Obama a lift last month, to be a guest at tonight’s presidential debate.

Obama got a friendly boost — literally — from Van Duzer when he made a surprise stop at his Ft. Pierce, Fla., restaurant. The pizza shop owner enthusiastically embraced the president, physically lifting him off the ground.

“Look at that!” the president exclaimed when he was back on solid ground. “Man, are you a powerlifter or what?” Van Duzer, 46, who stands at 6-foot-3 and weighs 260 pounds, later admitted he can bench press 350 pounds.

Van Duzer will be in the audience at Lynn University as Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney face off for the third and final time before election day.

A registered Republican, Van Duzer voted for Obama in 2008 and said last month that he plans to do so again in this election.

Read more from ABC’s Mary Bruce.

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Buzzy or bust: campaign slogans stump supporters
11:30 p.m ET

ABC’s Devin Dwyer has been covering the Obama campaign for more than a year. He has found that the president’s supporters aren’t always up on the latest campaign slogan. Take a look:

Read more of Devin’s report.

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SHOWS:
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