What to Expect in the Last Presidential Debate

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Tonight is very our last chance to see President Obama and Mitt Romney yell at each other, as well as debate issues, at the third presidential debate in Boca Raton, Florida. This debate is about foreign policy, which, the conventional wisdom goes, is a less important issue in this election than it was four years ago, even though foreign policy is the one thing the president has the most control over, and even though Obama has presided over one more war than George W. Bush did. This debate, moderated by CBS News' Bob Schieffer, will have the same format as the first debate -- six 15-minute sections. Schieffer will ask a question, give the candidates two minutes to respond, and then supposedly guide the debate for the next 11 minutes. But, as we remember from the debate moderated by PBS's Jim Lehrer, it's hard to get Obama and Romney to follow the rules. Perhaps they'll be more courteous to Schieffer, since they probably won't want to be seen as the kind of guy who yells at old people in Boca Raton, the cradle of old folks' civilization.

This time, the candidates will be sitting at a table (you can see Romney walking towards it at right). Maybe we'll get lucky and someone will bang his fist on the table. The Atlantic Wire will be live GIF-blogging all the shouts and murmurs. 

Here are the declared topics:

  • 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

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Schieffer will probably try to work in the latest news. On the "red lines" question -- which has neatly already been transformed from a complex problem to a pictograph -- he'll probably ask about the New York Times report that Iran and the U.S. have agreed "in principle" to one-on-one negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. On the "changing Middle East" questions, Schieffer will probably ask about the Washington Post report that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was using CIA talking points when she said the attacks on our Benghazi consulate happened during a protest, as well as that the U.S. had drones flying over the city. On China, the candidates will be asked about their protectionist ads they've been running in Ohio. But Romney and Obama aren't all that different on foreign policy. And that's why their facial expressions will be an important part of their performances, and why we'll be grabbing and looping the best ones.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.