In a few minutes President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney will debate for the last time. Bob Schieffer of CBS News will moderate the final debate, which will focus on foreign-policy issues. I imagine the ratings will be much lower tonight than for the previous two debates, partly because foreign policy isn't a priority for most voters, and partly because the debate is up against Monday Night Football and game 7 of the National League Championship Series in baseball.
Any comments about the debate or the presidential race in general are welcome in this thread. I will update later with some thoughts and news clips. Most national tracking polls show Romney and Obama within the margin of error for each other; Gallup continues to show Romney leading and above 50 percent. The candidates haven't focused on foreign policy in many speeches or commercials, but the latest spot from the president's re-election campaign highlights the drawdown of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
UPDATE: Added thoughts and links after the jump.
Although Romney didn't make any huge mistakes, I felt the president had a far better night. Romney sounded like he was trying not to lose, not to look like a warmonger. Obama sounded clear, calm, and focused. On several occasions he pointed out that Romney's previous statements differed from the stands he took tonight. The president seemed to draw a better response from the CNN focus group dialers, especially from the women.
There weren't many "gotcha" moments, but the highlight for me was when Obama pointed out that a few months ago, Romney called Russia (rather than al Qaeda) the major security threat to the U.S., adding, "The 1980s are calling and asking for their foreign policy back." I also thought Obama did a good job punching holes in Romney's rhetoric about the defense budget.
Apparently the the peak debate moment on twitter was when Obama acknowledged that the navy has fewer ships than it had during World War I: "We also have fewer horses and bayonets."
Both candidates tried to smuggle in plenty of talking points on domestic policy. The CNN dials shot up every time Obama talked about how we need to focus on nation-building at home after a decade of being at war. The focus group didn't like it when Romney talked about cutting domestic non-defense spending by 5 percent.
Romney agreed with Obama more often than I expected.
The CBS poll of uncommitted voters indicated a "clear victory" for Obama: 53 percent said Obama won, 23 percent said Romney won, 24 percent were unsure.
SECOND UPDATE: Respondents in the CNN/ORC poll of debate-watchers thought Obama won the debate by 48 percent to 40 percent. The poll sample was slightly more Republican than the national population.
Public Policy Polling's survey of "swing state debate-watchers" found that 53 percent thought Obama won, just 42 percent said Romney won. The cross-tabs suggest that independents thought Obama won by 55 percent to 40 percent. It doesn't look like many minds were changed, though. Among PPP respondents, 37 percent said this debate made them more likely to vote for Obama, 31 percent said less likely. Conversely, 38 percent said the debate made them more likely to vote for Romney, while 35 percent said less likely.
The swing states included in PPP's poll were Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
A CBS poll taken before the debate suggested the public trusts Obama more on foreign policy, but I doubt that's a voting issue for many Americans.
FOURTH UPDATE: NPR has the full debate transcript and audio.
I agree with Obama's prediction that the "sequestration" defense cuts scheduled to take place in early 2013 will not happen.
I think Bob Schieffer did the best job of all the debate moderators this year. He didn't waste a lot of time asking convoluted questions, and he moved the candidates along while giving them appropriate chances for rebuttals.