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Obama, Romney Enter Final Leg of Campaign

October 23, 2012

With their debates now history, U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney return to the campaign trail to round up any remaining wavering voters in the final two weeks before the November 6 election.

Both candidates will be traveling to a number of states that hold a large number of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House. Obama will hold a rally in Florida before flying to Ohio, where he will campaign with Vice President Joe Biden. Romney will travel west to Nevada and Colorado for campaign rallies with Congressman Paul Ryan, his vice presidential running mate

The Democratic incumbent and the former Massachusetts governor exchanged their opposing views on foreign policy in their third and final debate Monday in the southeastern state of Florida. Romney criticized Obama's handling of the Middle East, saying he has seen a "pretty dramatic reversal of the kind of hopes we had" there.

"I congratulate him on taking out Osama bin Laden and going after the leadership in al-Qaida, but we can not kill our way out of this mess. We are going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the world of Islam and other parts of the world reject this radical violent extremism," noted Romney. "Which is certainly not on the run. It is certainly not hiding."

Obama said the United States has worked hard with allies to bring peace and democracy to the region, pointing to Libya as an example. "Without putting troops on the ground, at the cost of less than two weeks in Iraq, liberate a country that was under the yoke of dictatorship for 40 years, a despot who had killed Americans, and despite this tragedy ten of thousands of Libyans after the events in Benghazi marched, saying, 'America is our friend. We stand with them," he said.

Romney also challenged the president's handling of Iran and its nuclear program, which he described as the United States' greatest threat.

"I think from the very beginning, one of the challenges we have had with Iran is that they have looked at this administration and felt that the administration was not as strong as it needed to be," stated Romney. "I think they saw weakness where they had expected to find American strength."

The president responded by contrasting his diplomatic efforts with Tehran to Romney's business interests.

"As I said before, we have put in the toughest, most crippling sanctions ever. And the fact is, while we were coordinating an international coalition to make sure these sanctions were effective, you [Romney] were still invested in a Chinese state oil company that was doing business with the Iranian oil sector," said Obama.

On Pakistan, Obama defended going in to get Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. He said U.S. forces would not have been able to get the terrorist leader if they had first asked permission to go get him.

Romney said he does not blame the administration for the strained U.S. relationship with Pakistan because going inside to get bin Laden was "the right thing to do." But he said the United States "can not just walk away" from a country that has 100 nuclear weapons, and must work with the people in Pakistan to "help them move to a more responsible course than the one that they are on."

For several months, surveyed voters had given the Democratic incumbent a strong foreign policy edge over Romney. But recent polls show the Republican has sharply cut into the president's advantage. Romney has repeatedly criticized the administration for its response to the September 11 raid on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. diplomatic staffers.

Two weeks ahead of the election, several surveys show the race virtually tied, with a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finding the race deadlocked at 47 percent each.

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