Obama takes the spoils

US President Barack Obama (right) and challenger Mitt Romney greet each other last night.

BOCA RATON — President Barack Obama scolded challenger Mitt Romney for being “all over the map” on foreign policy in their final presidential debate on Monday, but the Republican appeared to have passed the “commander-in-chief” test of looking authoritative on national security issues.

With two weeks left until Election Day, the high-stakes debate strayed frequently into domestic policy, with Romney seeking to bolster his argument that Obama had bungled the US economic recovery.

Running neck and neck in polls, neither man threw a knockout punch or made a noticeable gaffe as they clashed over Israel, Iran, Russia and the size of the US Navy in the encounter at Lynn University in Boca Raton.

‘Zingers and put-downs’

While tamer than the second debate last week in New York state, the match-up had its share of zingers and put-downs, most of them doled out by an aggressive president eager to stop a surge in polls by the former Massachusetts governor.

“I know you haven’t been in a position to actually execute foreign policy, but every time you’ve offered an opinion, you’ve been wrong,” said Obama.

“Attacking me is not an agenda,” was Romney’s frequent retort, alluding to Republican accusations that Obama had not laid out enough of a policy plan for a second term.

Snap polls declared Obama the winner, but 60 per cent of people in a CNN survey said Romney was capable of being commander in chief, accomplishing a key goal set out by his advisers.

A CBS News poll said 53 per cent believed Obama won the debate, versus 23 per cent for Romney and 24 per cent calling it a draw. The CNN poll put Obama as the winner by eight percentage points.

With foreign policy a low priority in a campaign focused on the economy, it was unclear what impact the debate would have on the race. Respondents in the CNN poll were split over whether it would influence their votes in the November 6 election. (Reuters)

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