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Obama, Romney Meet For Final Debate

Politics: Strengthening the economy, not foreign policy, dominates presidential candidates’ third standoff

by Susan R. Morrissey
October 23, 2012

Credit: Robert Duyos/MCT/Newscom
Romney (left) and Obama met for one last debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, on Oct. 22.
This is a photo of President Barak Obama (right) and Mitt Romney at the Oct. 22 debate.
Credit: Robert Duyos/MCT/Newscom
Romney (left) and Obama met for one last debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, on Oct. 22.

In what was supposed to be a presidential debate about foreign policy, President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney repeatedly steered the conversation toward strengthening the U.S. economy and maintaining U.S. competitiveness. And while the candidates briefly revisited their plans for energy and education policy to accomplish these goals, support for basic science funding was also part of the mix.

The President mentioned the importance of R&D funding to economic growth and global competitiveness at least four times during the 90-minute debate. For example, he said, “If we don’t continue to put money into research and technology that will allow us to create great businesses here in the U.S.,” the country will lose its competitive edge particularly with countries like China, and the economy will suffer.

Former Massachusetts governor Romney mentioned basic research funding once, but not as a means to foster competitiveness or economic prosperity. Instead, he brought it up to make the point that such funding should go to universities, not companies. “Research is great,” he said, but the federal investment in companies such as Tesla or Fisker to develop electric car batteries isn’t basic research. He added that, if elected, he would end such federal investments.

The debate also touched on the looming government-wide budget cuts known as sequestration that are set to take place on Jan. 2, 2013. Romney made it clear that he would protect military spending from these cuts, which are the mandated results of Congress’ failure to reach agreement on cutting the federal budget deficit.

But the President went further on the subject of the sequestration. He stated emphatically: “It will not happen.” He did not elaborate, but his confidence may indicate that Congress has broken its impasse on the issue.

Romney outlined a plan that he said would get the U.S. to a balanced budget in eight to 10 years. First, he said, he would immediately put in place a 5% cut to all nondefense discretionary federal spending. Then, he continued, he would get rid of programs “that we don’t absolutely have to have” and shift control of other federal programs to states.

As the candidates concluded their last debate before the Nov. 6, election, moderator Bob Schieffer summed things up in the words of his mother: “Go vote. It makes you feel big and strong.”



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