The Stakes

The conventional wisdom says that President Obama salvaged a bad first debate performance with an above-average performance at the Hofstra University town hall. Now, the foreign policy debate at Lynn University is the last opportunity for two campaigns locked in a dead-heat to make an impression on the electorate.

While the economy and various social issues had dominated the campaign for much of the summer, the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya re-shifted the focus back to foreign policy, starting a partisan back-and-forth about the nature of the attack and the Administration’s response. (See David Rothkopf’s article in Foreign Policy on how this swung to a foreign policy election.)

Five Things You Should Hear, but Might Not

1)    Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez

Rumors of Fidel Castro’s demise were disproved earlier this week and regime change in Havana does not seem to be in the immediate cards. The embargo on Cuba should be a topic of discussion—but it won’t be. Obama has softened some of the restrictions on Cuba, easing remittances and encouraging “people to people” tourism, but Governor Romney advocates a return to the Bush-era isolation of the Castro regime. Because of the tight race in Florida, you can bet against any discussion of this issue.

The Chavez regime in Venezuela has been a traditional rallying point for both Republicans and Democrats on human rights and democracy in Latin America. Chavez, however, just won hotly contested, fair election this past month in Venezuela that leaves the United States without much leverage in the international community. Both candidates should be asked about what their contingency plans are if and when the ailing and aging Chavez passes away and how the United States will work to improve relations with Venezuela in the future, or whether further isolation is the only option the table.

You may see Venezuela pop up in passing while Iran is discussed—both Romney and Obama have expressed concern about Chavez’s ties to Iran.