WASHINGTON – The Obama and Romney camps used the final hours before Monday night's foreign policy debate to question each other's approach to solving pressing issues around the world -- with dueling ads and videos foreshadowing the talking points each will roll out in the debate.
The Romney campaign released a Web video titled “Healed?” that argues Obama made a 2008 campaign promise to “heal” the planet, but four years later the world remains full of unrest and violence, particularly in the Middle East.
The 60-second ad features a montage of TV news clips about deadly violence in Syria and other worldwide concerns -- between text that reads “Healed? … The World Can’t Afford Four More Years.”
The Obama campaign released a series of short videos attempting to portray Romney as unprepared to serve as commander in chief.
One ad argues Romney has failed to realize that Russia is no longer the United States’ “number one geo-political enemy.”
“The statements that Governor Romney makes show little understanding of what is actually going on in the 21 century,” Madeleine Albright, secretary of State in the Clinton administration, says in the video.
The campaign also released a TV ad that focuses more on Obama’s foreign policy achievements, with the narrator saying the president ended the war in Iraq and has brought back 30,000 U.S. soldiers from Afghanistan, which the video says Romney called Obama’s “biggest mistake.”
“It’s time to stop fighting over there and start rebuilding here,” the narrators says at the end of the 30-second spot.
Obama and Romney spent the final hours studying before this third and final debate – amid new polling that reinforces the view that Romney's surge after their first debate has made the race too close to call.
With two weeks until Election Day, neither candidate is likely to get another chance after Monday night to articulate his platform to such a broad audience.
The debate offers the usual mix of opportunity and peril for the candidates. One slip-up could drive coverage for days, with precious few left on the calendar. A strong performance by either could turn a post-debate bounce into an Election Day victory.
And the race is tight enough that any movement of the needle out of Monday night's debate could make a difference.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll on Sunday showed the president and Romney tied at 47 percent. A new Politico/George Washington University Battleground tracking poll showed Romney leading, 49 percent to 47 percent -- marking the first time the Republican nominee has led since May.
Monday's 90-minute faceoff is at Lynn University, in Boca Raton, Fla.
The debate is likely to get testy. In the last round, the two candidates repeatedly interrupted each other and the moderator, as they jostled for time. The sensitive subject of the Libya terror attack is also expected to be a top issue Monday night.
Earlier in the day, Vice President Joe Biden attended rallies in Canton and Lorain, Ohio, where he told those in attendance he and the president would end war in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
“Period. Done. Over,” Biden told the crowd in Lorain.
Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee, said at a rally in Durango, Colo., that the president's two biggest ideas were to “gut the military,” which would undermine national security, “then raise taxes on successful small businesses.”
Debate moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News has said Monday's discussion is sure to reflect "how dangerous the world is in which we live."
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.
And all feed into the broader debate about which candidate offers the steady hand and sound judgment for a nation facing myriad challenges at home and abroad.
Over the weekend, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, arguing for the Republicans, faulted Obama for "his failure to outline broad goals, real goals, a real view of what America's role in the world should be." Romney, by contrast, would "use America's role in the world as a catalyst for peace, prosperity and freedom," he said.
The Obama campaign released a blistering memo from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., accusing Romney of offering nothing but "endless bluster" on international issues.
"He is an extreme and expedient candidate who lacks the judgment and vision so vital for the Oval Office," said Kerry, who is considered a leading candidate to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state if Obama wins a second term.
When it comes to their foreign policy credentials, both candidates have reasons for optimism and concern: While foreign policy has been a strength of Obama's throughout the campaign, some recent polls show his advantage narrowing.
The Pew Research Center's October poll, for example, found that 47 percent of Americans favored Obama to make "wise decisions about foreign policy," while 43 percent preferred Romney.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.