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Washington • The economy, education and energy policies at home play deeply into America's power abroad, both presidential candidates charged Monday in their final debate, hitting the key issue driving the campaign with two weeks until Election Day.
While questions in the exchange focused on Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, the candidates headed to their comfort zone of talking up plans to revive the U.S. economy. It was their last chance to appear together and to personally rough each other up in front of voters.
Candidates of peace • While the two candidates disagreed on many points, they also found different paths to the same goal of not using the military unless absolutely needed.
Romney brought up the word "peace" and then repeated it three subsequent times in the next four sentences.
"We want people to be able to enjoy their lives and know they're going to have a bright and prosperous future, not be at war," Romney said. "That's our purpose."
Obama didn't mention the word "peace" once, but noted that under his leadership the war in Iraq is over and the core leadership of al-Qaidahas been decimated.
"My first job as commander in chief, Bob, is to keep the American people safe," Obama said, referencing moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News. "And that's what we've done over the last four years."
Foreign tours • Romney continued his attack on Obama for taking an "apology tour" after being elected, a sign, Romney said, that hurt America's standing against foreign despots.
"The president began what I have called an apology tour, of going to various nations in the Middle East and criticizing America," Romney said. "I think they looked at that and saw weakness. Then when there were dissidents in the streets of Tehran, a Green Revolution, holding signs saying, 'Is America with us,' the president was silent. I think they noticed that as well."
Obama quickly fought back, calling out Romney for holding a fundraiser with big American donors in Israel during his summer trip.
"If we're going to talk about trips that we've taken when I was a candidate for office, first trip I took was to visit our troops," Obama said. "And when I went to Israel as a candidate, I didn't take donors. I didn't attend fundraisers."
Taking it home • With the last debate focused on foreign policy but voters more concerned with keeping or gaining a job, the candidates turned several questions back to boosting the economy at home.
"When it comes to our economy here at home, I know what it takes to create 12 million new jobs and raising take-home pay," Romney said shortly after a question on America's role in the world. "And what we've seen over the last four years is something I don't want to see over the next four years."
Obama drove that point home as well: "We've got to make sure that our economy is strong at home so that we can project military power overseas."
In fact, both hit on their plans to grow the American economic engine with Romney listing his five-point plan and Obama hitting on his move to decrease oil imports and efforts to keep education a top priority.
Lines of the night
Romney • "I couldn't agree more about going forward, but I certainly don't want to go back to the policies of the last four years."
Romney • "We're four years closer to a nuclear Iran. And and we should not have wasted these four years."
Romney • "I congratulate him on on taking out Osama bin Laden and going after the leadership in al-Qaeda. But we can't kill our way out of this mess."
Obama • "You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines."
Obama • "Governor Romney's right, you are familiar with jobs being shipped overseas because you invested in companies that were shipping jobs overseas. … But I've made a different bet on American workers."
Obama • "I'm glad that you recognize that al-Qaida is a threat, because a few months ago when you were asked what's the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia, not al-Qaida; you said Russia, [the 1980s is] now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War's been over for 20 years."