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Transition 2012

A guide to foreign policy and the 2012 U.S. presidential transition.

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Midday Update: Obama, Romney Close on Foreign Policy

by Newsteam Staff
October 19, 2012

Protesters wearing masks of U.S. President Obama and GOP nominee Romney in New York October 18, 2012. (Eduardo Munoz/Courtesy Reuters) Protesters wearing masks of U.S. President Obama and GOP nominee Romney in New York October 18, 2012. (Eduardo Munoz/Courtesy Reuters)

President Barack Obama and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney are nearly tied in a new Pew survey on which candidate would do a better job making wise foreign policy decisions, with 47 percent favoring Obama and 43 percent choosing Romney. This represents a gain of fifteen points for Romney since September.

The poll also shows that an increasing number of U.S. voters support “getting tough with China” and taking “a firm stand” with Iran, while the number of respondents who said avoiding military conflict with Iran should be a priority has dropped.

CFR’s James M. Lindsay cautions that, because the public often lacks sufficient knowledge and context to really evaluate questions on foreign policy topics, the wording of the questions, especially on issues like Iran and China, could have had influenced the responses.

“Support for a showdown with Iran would likely be significantly lower if Pew had asked whether the public favored war with Iran to keep it from going nuclear,” he said. Lindsay also argued that the support for getting tougher with China would likely have dropped if respondents were aware that these types of actions would also result in U.S. job losses.

The third and final presidential debate on Monday will focus on foreign policy topics (Politico).

Read what Obama and Romney are proposing for a number of major foreign policy topics in these CFR Issue Trackers.


In an interview with Jon Stewart on Thursday, Obama reiterated his pledge to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, a campaign promise that he originally made in 2008.

Obama signed an executive order calling for the closure of Guantanamo on his second day in office in 2009, but the prisoners have not been moved to the United States because of Congressional legislation blocking the transfer of any prisoners to the country from overseas.

In the past, Romney has supported keeping Guantanamo open, but has not spoken publicly about it (WaPo) during the campaign.

Read more about the candidates’ positions on homeland and national security in this CFR Issue Tracker.


In a win for the Obama administration, the World Trade Organization barred China from imposing duties (Reuters) on certain steel exports from Ohio and Pennsylvania, battleground states where both Obama and Romney have raised competing claims over who will be tougher on China.

A spokesman for China’s Commerce Ministry promptly criticized the  “politicization of trade issues during the U.S. presidential campaign,” reports Reuters. The spokesman also said, “China had some worries that campaign rhetoric could affect broader ties.”

A Chinese firm that was blocked form acquiring wind farms in the United States by the Obama Administration has also blamed campaign politics for the decision and pledged yesterday that it would fight the order “to the very end” (Reuters).

This CFR Issue Tracker details both candidates’ stances on U.S.-China policy.

–Contributing Editor Kirsti Itameri

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