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Winning the week: Obama and Romney must inject the economy into foreign policy debate Add to ...

Each Monday, The Globe invites two strategists – a Democrat and a Republican – to share their take on what each campaign needs to do this week in order to win the White House.

As election day ticks ever closer, U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney face off again Monday night for the campaign’s third and final debate.

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While Mr. Obama performed well in the second debate last week, Mr. Romney has managed to hold onto the momentum he won in their first match-up. A Politico/George Washington University tracking poll puts Mr. Romney ahead of the President by two points, at 49 to 47 per cent. Mr. Romney, who is up three points from last week, has not led in the poll since May.

Meanwhile, a poll by Quinnipiac University/CBS News has Mr. Obama ahead in the battleground state of Ohio, but suggests his lead is slipping. Mr. Obama has a lead of 50 per cent to Mr. Romney’s 45 per cent, down from the President’s 53-43 margin on Sept. 26.

What does each campaign need to do to win the week? We asked two strategists – a Democrat and a Republican – to map a winning formula and share it with The Globe and Mail. Both focused on Monday evening’s foreign policy debate, but also urged their candidates to emphasize their economic visions.

Linda Moore Forbes served in the Clinton White House and worked on Capitol Hill. She is a Democratic Party insider, political consultant and has worked on several presidential campaigns.

President Obama and Governor Romney face off in their third and final debate Monday night. The topic is foreign policy, an area of strength for President Obama. Republicans clearly had hoped that the controversy surrounding the attacks in Libya last month could be a “silver bullet” for them, but it hasn’t turned out that way.

The format is the same as the first debate – one moderator and six topics – which invites a lot more interaction between the two candidates. President Obama needs to maintain presidential composure and not get pulled into bickering with Mr. Romney. He needs to find ways to inject the economy – a more salient issue for most voters – into the discussion. Some examples of how he could do this are by talking about developing green energy jobs as a way to make us less dependent on foreign oil and investing in research and development so we are globally competitive. He also needs to deliver a strong, concise closing statement that inspires confidence in a second Obama term.

Now is the time for the campaign team to focus on persuading undecided voters – they plan to have President Obama call some personally – and turning out their voters. They have purchased a vast amount of data to help them determine how best to influence each particular person. They also need to analyze early voting information, to see where they are under-performing and where Mr. Romney is over-performing, and ramp up efforts in those areas. One-third of voters are expected to vote prior to Election Day, and early voting made the difference for Mr. Obama in 2008. He lost to John McCain among election day voters.

President Obama needs to maintain an aggressive travel schedule, and remind voters at each stop of the extreme positions Mr. Romney took earlier this year and that Mr. Romney’s policies would benefit the rich, hurt the middle class and increase the deficit.

Ron Bonjean served as lead spokesman for Republican leaders on Capitol Hill and as head of public affairs to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce in the George W. Bush administration.

The final stretch of the campaign kicks off with the third presidential debate on foreign policy. Mr. Romney must force Mr. Obama on defence regarding the embassy attack in Libya on 9/11 and poke holes in the President’s record over Iran and relations with Israel and China. Of course, he must also show his vision over America’s role in the world and a good working knowledge of international leaders and our relationship to them.

The challenge for this debate is that swing voters really don’t care about foreign policy compared to our nation’s economic troubles. Mr. Romney’s strength lies in his five-point plan on the economy. Anything he can do to raise his economic vision will score points with millions of voters watching. For example, he can raise the economic issue over China taking U.S. manufacturing jobs and his pledge to create a business-friendly environment that would encourage companies to bring jobs back to the United States.

After the debate, the way the campaign spends its resources and time is critical during this stage. Mr. Obama is slightly leading in Iowa, Wisconsin and the must-win state of Ohio. Mr. Romney is doing well in Florida, Colorado and Virginia. The Romney campaign will pour its time and resources into breaching the Obama Midwest firewall while his momentum rises in former Obama blue states. The kitchen sink of advertising, surrogates and volunteer get-out-the-vote efforts will be poured into these states.

The Romney campaign message will be clear: “Romney is the man with the plan to turn the country around. An Obama administration doesn’t have a plan for the next four years. Why settle on a struggling economy and status quo when America could be great again?”

 
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