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Performance, rather than content, to weigh heavily in final U.S. presidential debate

By Matthew Rusling (Xinhua)

08:29, October 22, 2012

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- With foreign policy low on Americans' list of concerns, U.S. viewers will focus less on what the two candidates say in Monday's presidential debate and more on how they say it, while the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya could continue to be a major topic, experts said.

While the theme of Monday's third and final face-off between U.S. President Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney is foreign policy, the most important thing for both is scoring points with viewers on presentation. Taking a backseat are the finer points of sticky foreign policy issues that are over the heads of many Americans.

"Watching (the candidates') response to the questions is potentially more important" than their actual foreign policies, Pew Research Center Andrew Kohut told reporters at a breakfast Friday at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

That was true in last week's debate, when Obama's smooth responses and confidence gave him a slight edge, as well as in the first debate, in which Obama had a lackluster performance that has cost his previous lead over Romney among likely voters.

Since the contests began early this month, the Republican challenger has been steadily closing the gap in national polls, pulling ahead of the president and on Friday dropping behind by a razor-thin 0.1 point.

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