Washington: Going on the offensive right from the word go, President Barack Obama won the final debate on points, but two weeks before the Nov 6 poll, the White House race remains a dead heat.
As expected, India did not figure in Monday night`s third encounter between Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney as they clashed over issues ranging from Afghanistan and Pakistan to rise of China to Libya, Israel, Iran and the Middle East.
A quick CNN/ORC poll after the debate in Boca Raton, Florida gave 48 percent to 40 percent victory to Obama, while 53 percent of respondents in a CBS poll "gave the foreign policy-themed debate to Obama; 23 percent said Romney won".
But the CNN survey also indicated that the debate may have little impact on the choice of registered voters on Election Day.
Of watchers, 24 percent said the debate made them more likely to vote for Obama; 25 percent said the debate made them more likely to vote for Romney; and 50 percent said the debate didn`t make a difference.
Going on the attack in the debate, Obama suggested that Romney wanted to import "foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s".
Romney ended up supporting most of the Obama administration`s steps involving hotspots, like withdrawal from Afghanistan, civil war in Syria, and preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
The only difference seemed to be in nuances with Romney accusing the president of failing to assert American interests and values in the world to deal with a "rising tide of chaos" and Obama criticizing the challenger for articulating a set of "wrong and reckless" policies that he called incoherent.
Romney applauded Obama`s efforts to kill Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders but insisted that "we can`t kill our way out of this mess". Rather, he pushed for "a comprehensive strategy" to curb violent extremism in the Middle East.
"The key pathway is to get the Muslim world to reject extremism on its own," Romney said, proposing US policies to promote economic development, better education, gender equity and to help create institutions.
Romney agreed that the surge in Afghanistan has been successful and the US was on track to make the transition to Afghan forces by 2014. But, he said "what`s happening in Pakistan is going to have a major impact on the success in Afghanistan".
"A Pakistan that falls apart, becomes a failed state would be of extraordinary danger to Afghanistan and us," he said suggesting that US aid to Pakistan should be conditioned upon certain benchmarks being met.
Harping on the success in decimating Al Qaeda`s core leadership in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Obama reminded Romney that back in 2008 when they were both candidates "I said, if I got (Osama) bin Laden in our sights, I would take that shot, you said we shouldn`t move heaven and earth to get one man, and you said we should ask Pakistan for permission".
"And if we had asked Pakistan for permission, we would not have gotten him. And it was worth moving heaven and earth to get him."
Romney also repeatedly tried to shift the discussion to his strongest issue -- the continued high unemployment and slow economic recovery under Obama -- arguing that a strong foreign policy and national defence depends on a strong economy.