Still neck-and-neck after all these months, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney head into their third and final debate with each man eager to project an aura of personal strength and leadership while raising doubts about the steadiness and foreign policy credentials of the other guy.
Each is aiming for a commanding performance Monday to settle the seesaw dynamics of the first two debates: Romney gave Obama an old-fashioned shellacking in the first round, and the chastened president rebounded in their second encounter.
The 90-minute faceoff at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., offers the candidates their last opportunity to stand one-on-one before tens of millions of Americans and command their undivided attention before next month's election. Both candidates largely dropped out of sight and devoted their weekends to debate preparations, a sure sign of the high importance they attach to the event.
While the principals warm up for their evening debate in the battleground state of Florida, their running mates will be busy Monday seeking votes in two of the eight other states whose up-for-grabs electoral votes will determine the next president — Vice President Joe Biden in Ohio and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan in Colorado. Also still hotly contested: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Virginia.
It fell to campaign surrogates on Sunday talk shows to frame the foreign policy matters that moderator Bob Schieffer will put before the candidates in a discussion sure to reflect "how dangerous the world is in which we live," as the CBS newsman put it. Iran's nuclear intentions, the bloody crackdown in Syria, economic angst in Europe, security concerns in Afghanistan, China's growing power — all that and more are on the agenda.