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Romney, Obama Steer Foreign Policy Debate Back to Economy

The final presidential debate Monday night had a planned focus on foreign policy, but both President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney made sure to bring discussions back to the national economy.

Countless times during the debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., both candidates talked about domestic issues and how they relate back to foreign policy. During much of the campaign, international relations and foreign policy have taken a backseat to the economy. But during the 90-minute debate, both candidates focused on trade and defense spending, tying it in with the national economy.

Foreign Policy and the U.S. Economy

Romney hammered Obama on the national financial crisis, calling it a threat to the nation’s foreign policy. Because the “mantle of leadership” has fallen on the United States, the nation has a responsibility to promote peace, he said, a difficult job when the economy is in bad shape. Romney said the country’s debt is the one of the biggest threats to national security. In order to be secure, he said, “we need a strong economy.”

Romney went on to say the national financial crisis has kept Americans struggling without decent jobs. “When you came to office: 32 million people on food stamps. Today: 47 million people on food stamps,” he said to Obama.

Obama countered Romney’s attacks by saying that the country has come far in the last four years and that Romney’s policies won’t create local jobs or reduce the national deficit. He attacked Romney’s policies as “wrong and reckless.”

“Over the last four years we’ve made real progress digging our way out of policies that gave us two prolonged wars, record deficits and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” Obama said. He argued that Governor Romney wants to impose “a foreign policy that’s wrong and reckless, economic policies that won’t create jobs, won’t reduce our deficit.”

Foreign Policy Plans and International Trading

During the debate, moderated by Bob Schieffer of CBS News, the candidates were forced to discuss their foreign policy plans. This included dialing in on turmoil in the Middle East, issues in Syria and problems with trade with China. According to the New York Times, the overall clash between the two candidates came down to who would pursue national goals more successfully while ensuring America’s economic role overseas.

Romney said he would focus on growing trade with Latin America – a topic that both candidates have summarily avoided during the campaign. Much foreign trade talk during the campaign has focused on China, not Latin America.

But with a growing amount of exports to Latin American countries like Mexico and Columbia, it’s an important topic. More than 38 million American jobs depending on trade, and many see Latin American trade as an untapped market for economic growth at home.

Romney argued that the United States is not taking advantage of useful opportunities in Latin America. “As a matter of fact, Latin America’s economy is almost as big as the economy of China,” Romney said.

Obama, on the other hand, opted to keep the foreign trade conversation on China, as well as on the United States. He said it’s important “that China plays by the same rules as everybody else.” He wanted to stop violations of international trade rules.

He continued by saying the U.S. needs to remain competitive in the world market. “If we don’t have the best education system in the world, if we don’t continue to put money into research and technology that will allow us to create great businesses here in the United States, that’s how we lose the competition.”

Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it in 2012, helping birth into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering the high finance world of college and professional sports for major publications, including the Associated Press, New York Times and Sports Illustrated. His interest in sports has waned some, but he is as passionate as ever about not reaching for his wallet. Bill can be reached at [email protected].

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    1. Baker, P. (2012, October 22). Obama and Romney Bristle From Start Over Foreign Policy. The New York Times. Retrieved from:
    2. Llenas, B. (2012, October 22). Romney vs Obama Final Debate: Why Latin America Matters, And Not Being Discussed. FoxNews Latino. Retrieved from
    3. Obama photo: Alan Freed /
    4. Romney photo: Christopher Halloran /