Tonight was the rubber match, and President Obama came out swinging—perhaps playing the aggressive role of a candidate who has slid in the polls. Mitt Romney struck a more sober tone as he tried to parry jabs at the foreign policy debate in Boca Raton, Fla., the New York Times reports. "Every time you have offered an opinion, you've been wrong," Obama said. Romney retorted that "attacking me is not an agenda. Attacking me is not talking about how we are going to deal with the challenges of the Middle East." A few standout moments:
- Obama criticized Romney for being "all over the map" on his policies and saying that Russia was America's No.1 foreign-policy threat. Romney wants "foreign policy of 1980s, social policy of 1950s, and economic policy of 1920s," Obama said.
- Romney congratulated Obama for killing Osama bin Laden, but said that "we can't kill our way out of this mess," and argued for a "comprehensive strategy" across the Middle East.
- Romney said the Air Force has shrunk to 1940s levels and the Navy to its 1917 size. "We also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military has changed," quipped Obama.
- Romney criticized Obama's "apology tour" of the Middle East, where dictators “saw weakness where they had expected to find American strength." Obama called that "the biggest whopper that’s been told" and said his Iran policy has "the toughest, most crippling sanctions ever."
- Obama talked about the mission to get bin Laden, and mentioned Romney's 2008 remark that he wouldn't "move heaven and earth" to kill al-Qaeda's leader.
- Both Obama and Romney promised to support Israel if it's ever attacked. Obama called Israel "our greatest ally in the region," a step up from recently calling it "one of our closest allies in the region"—a remark critics had jumped on.
- On Syria, Romney agreed that "we don't want to have military involvement."
- A discussion on China relations turned into a dispute over Romney's criticisms of the auto bailout. "If we'd taken your advice about the auto industry we'd be buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China," Obama said. Romney insisted that "nothing could be further than the truth—I'm a son of Detroit. ... I would do nothing to hurt the auto industry."