Washington: President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney clashed over issues ranging from Afghanistan and Pakistan to rise of China to Libya, Israel, Iran and the Middle East in their final debate with Obama being declared winner but the race outcome still set for a very close finish.
Meeting for their third encounter 15 days before the election, Obama went on the attack right from the word go suggesting his opponent wanted to import "foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s."
A snap poll taken by after the Monday night debate on foreign policy divided into six 15-minute segments focusing on six topics at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida declared Obama the winner by a margin of 48 to 40 percent.
But it`s yet to be seen how far the win in the third debate would help Obama forge ahead in the White House race which remains a dead heat according to latest polls with Obama maintaining very narrow advantages in crucial battleground states like Ohio.
The latest poll confirming the trend is a new Washington Post-ABC News poll showing the race still deadlocked among likely voters nationally with 49 percent backing Obama and 48 percent favouring Romney.
During Monday`s debate 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.
Romney applauded Obama`s efforts to kill Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders but insisted that "we can`t kill our way of this mess." Rather, he pushed for "a comprehensive strategy" to curb violent extremism in the Middle East.
"The key is the 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 also 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 even as Islamabad is encouraged to mend fences with Washington, the US aid to Pakistan should be conditioned upon certain benchmarks being met.
Harping on his administration`s 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 defense depends on a strong economy.