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Obama, Romney Set for Foreign Policy Debate

Third presidential debate prep; photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Workers prepare the stage for Monday’s presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Body language analysts may not have much to talk about Monday night. President Obama and Mitt Romney will sit side-by-side at a table when they meet for the final presidential debate with 15 days to go until voters decide which of them will live in the White House the next four years.

The 90-minute forum at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., is expected to focus mainly on foreign policy. Moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News has selected the following topics, subject to change for news developments:

  • America’s role in the world
  • Our longest war – Afghanistan and Pakistan
  • Red Lines – Israel and Iran
  • The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism – I
  • The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism – II
  • The Rise of China and Tomorrow’s World

The debate competes with both “Monday Night Football” (Bears vs. Lions) and Game 7 of the National League Championship Series (Giants vs. Cardinals).

Team NewsHour’s debate-day livestream kicks off in the late afternoon. We’ll be replaying some of our major foreign affairs stories from this campaign year.

Tune in for that, the regular evening NewsHour at 6 p.m. ET, which will feature a look ahead from Judy Woodruff in battleground Florida, and our PBS debate special with Judy and Gwen Ifill on your local affiliate at 9 p.m. ET.

President Obama’s re-election campaign worked overnight to point out what it hopes voters perceive as Romney’s weaknesses on matters of international import.

Team Obama released a memo by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and a television spot roughing up the Republican presidential nominee.

Kerry’s bottom line:

We have that steady and strong leader today in President Obama. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, offers nothing but endless bluster and a record of dangerous blunders, failing at every turn to show he’s up to the challenge. In fact, Governor Romney has outlined fewer specific policies for how he would lead on national security issues than any presidential candidate in my memory. He is an extreme and expedient candidate who lacks the judgment and vision so vital for the Oval Office, and he’s at the top of the most inexperienced foreign policy ticket to run for president and vice president in decades.

Watch the ad:

The foreign policy faceoff comes as fresh polling shows what should come as no surprise to regular Morning Line readers — it’s still all tied up nationally — and Romney is closing the gap on the president in battleground states that will ultimately decide this contest on Nov. 6.

The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday showed Mr. Obama and Romney all square at 47 percent each. In the NBC/WSJ survey conducted before the first debate, the president had a three-point lead, 49 percent to 46 percent.

The poll also showed that Romney nearly erased the president’s advantage when it came to the question of which of the two men would be a better commander in chief, with Mr. Obama holding a slim 44 percent to 41 percent lead. His edge on that score last month was 8 percent.

In the marquee swing state of Ohio, the president’s lead over Romney has narrowed to five points among likely voters, 50 percent to 45 percent, according to a new Quinnipiac University/CBS News poll. The Democrat’s advantage in the Buckeye State has been sliced in half since the last poll taken in late September before the debate season started.

A Politico/George Washington University tracking poll of 1,000 likely voters found Romney leading, 49 percent to 47 percent, with his strongest support in the South and Mountain regions.

Also over the weekend, the financial picture became clearer, with the FEC reports filed by each campaign showing the candidates’ priorities.

The Los Angeles Times writes about the president “burning through” $116 million in September, and Team Obama took out a $15 million loan.

In addition, 10 Romney aides received big bonuses last month, the reports showed.

BuzzFeed rounded it up:

Romney political director Rich Beeson scored the largest amount, taking in a combined $75,000 in two payments on August 31, after the Republican National Convention, and September 13.

According to an spokesperson, the money was paid out of the campaign’s account for the primaries, and are “win bonuses as part of people’s employee agreements.”

General Counsel Katie Biber, Policy Director Lanhee Chen, Communications Director Gail Gitcho, Digital Director Zac Moffat, Campaign Manager Matt Rhoades, and Senior Adviser Gabriel Schoenfeld all received $50,000 payouts in the same two installments.

Deputy Political Director Jason McBride and top aide Louis Tavares each took in $20,000 bonuses, while Press Secretary Andrea Saul received a single $10,000 check on September 12, filings show.

The bonuses are only for Romney’s top aides who are on the campaign’s payroll. Other senior advisers, including Stuart Stevens and Eric Fehrnstrom are paid through a consulting company.


The NewsHour’s Ray Suarez on Friday took a look at each campaign’s push to reach Latino voters using paid media and Spanish-language press, and he outlined the challenges for each side.

Watch Ray’s report here or below:

Christina talked to Ray for Friday’s Political Checklist about why he chose to focus on this story.

Watch that here or below:


On Friday night, Jeffrey Brown talked with Mark Shields and David Brooks about debate expectations and the state of the presidential race with just over two weeks to go. The columnists also talked about the legacy of George McGovern, who died Sunday at age 90.

Mark, who worked on the 1972 campaign, said it is “unfair” to define McGovern by that loss, and that people should remember his leadership on both Vietnam and Iraq.

“[H]e proved that you could be peaceful and a patriot at the same time, and that the two weren’t in any way mutually exclusive,” Mark said, adding:

He went off to war as a 22-year-old from South Dakota. He flew the B-24, which is a big lumbering four-engine craft. It was vulnerable to German aircraft. He did 35 combat missions.

And Stephen Ambrose, the poet laureate of American military heroes, said George McGovern was as great a patriot as he ever knew, that he had the trust, confidence and love of his crew. And his acts of courage were just enormous.

And I think that we owe him an enormous debt. Stephen Ambrose said, I just want to show you that don’t have to be a hawk to be a great patriot. And George McGovern was that. He was a great patriot.

He devoted his energies and time to feeding the hungry and to trying to stop the United States from two wars we shouldn’t have gone into, Vietnam and Iraq.

David agreed and called McGovern “an incredibly decent man throughout his Senate and even the presidential runs, just incredibly nice.”

“I would say a lot of the people he brought into the party in 1972 went on to reshape the Democratic Party to this day,” David said, noting Bill Clinton, Gary Hart and others. “I think he had a huge legacy…within the party.”

Don’t miss the Dick Morris talk, and Mark’s idea of the most popular politician in the country.

Watch here or below:

Hari Sreenivasan also chatted with the guys about the sport of politics and the politics of sport in the Doubleheader. Watch that here or below:


Monday’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA focuses on military spending.

The nonpartisan organization examined the $153 billion in fiscal 2012 costs of personnel (one-quarter of the Pentagon budget) and found “U.S. military personnel costs alone exceed the entire military budget of any other country in the world.” More:

Salaries and health care are the two biggest elements of that $153 billion. Military pay ranges from $17,892 for the greenest private to $230,879 for a four-star general.

While the active duty force has grown only 4 percent since 2000, compensation costs are up 28 percent. The cause is mostly health care costs, which have doubled for the Pentagon since 2001.


  • Romnesia” became a thing Friday.
  • In Sunday’s New York Times, Jodi Kantor explores the president’s views and record on race issues.
  • Ryan Lizza pens a detailed piece on Team Obama’s strategy for the final weeks.
  • Molly Ball writes about the “Revenge of the Soccer Moms.”
  • NewsHour production assistant Joshua Barajas captures the mood of voters at the famed Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, N.H.
  • The Democratic National Committee has a bunch of debt, with $4.6 million in the bank as of Sept. 30. The Republican National Committee had $82.6 million in cash on hand.
  • Team Romney releases three new television spots over the weekend. Team Obama releases this one and this one.
  • If you wanted to relive the “Joe the Plumber” storyline that Sen. John McCain pushed in the third and final presidential debate in 2008, here you go. The exchange in full is enlightening given the current debate over taxes and the economy.
  • Salon looks closer at the voter registration scandal tied to the Republican Party in Virginia. Roll Call has more on the aide at the heart of the registration-trashing incident.
  • Noam Schieber profiles Tagg Romney for the New Republic.
  • Paul Solman has another piece exploring how to predict what will happen on Nov. 6.
  • The New York Times has the gosh darn cutest story about Romney you’ll read this cycle.
  • Vice President Biden delivers donuts to a campaign office wearing aviators.



-PoliticMo reports that Rep. Todd Akin, the GOP Senate nominee in Missouri, criticized Sen. Claire McCaskill at a weekend fundraising event, telling supporters that the Democratic incumbent has fetched big government policies “like a dog” and dumped them on the state’s residents.

  • Roll Call’s Joshua Miller breaks down the different tiers of possible surprises in House races this cycle.
  • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee outraised the National Republican Senatorial Committee in September, $15.6 million to $12.9 million.
  • The NewsHour asks if legalizing and taxing drugs could lower the deficit.
  • Judy talked with former FDIC chair Sheila Bair. Watch.
  • Roll Call checks in on Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., about how the flap involving urging his mistress to get an abortion has affected his re-election bid.
  • Check out the relaunch of Jim Lehrer’s “Debating our Destiny.”

Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.


All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama and Mitt Romney will meet for their final debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., at 9 p.m.
  • Vice President Biden campaigns in Ohio, delivering remarks in Canton at 11:30 a.m. and speaking in Lorain at 3:30 p.m.
  • Paul Ryan campaigns in Colorado, attending an event in Pueblo at 1 p.m., another in Durango at 4:35 p.m. and stops by a debate watch party in Grand Junction at 8 p.m.
  • Michelle Obama speaks to grassroots supporters in Broward County, Fla., at 3 p.m. and attends a fundraiser in Boca Raton at 4:50 p.m.
  • Jill Biden campaigns in Wisconsin, making stops in Madison and Appleton.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan, @tiffanymullon, @dePeystah, @meenaganesan and @abbruns.

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