What Romney needs to do at tonight’s foreign policy debate

Jake Tapper, Richard Coolidge & Sherisse Pham
Power Players

Political Punch

Tonight's third and final presidential debate will focus entirely on international politics and foreign policy.  Expect Benghazi to be one of the major issues, a subject on which, for the first time in nearly a month, the Obama administration will have the upper hand.

"The Romney campaign had the high ground on this issue for weeks. They lost that high ground at the second debate by alleging, suggesting the Obama administration had misled the American public on Benghazi," says Josh Rogin, of Foreign Policy's The Cable.

"It took the president 14 days before he called the attack on the embassy an act of terror," Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said at that debate. Obama had in fact called it an act of terror the day after the attack, though the administration spent the next two weeks avoiding the term terror, blaming the attack  on an anti-Muslim video and claiming some of it was spontaneous.

Still, "there's no real evidence that they misled, it's possible they were just wrong. And President Obama seized on that and called that offensive and...now the president has regained the moral high authority on this issue."

"Of course the administration's argument that they were just incompetent and not misleading is not a perfect argument," says Rogin with a laugh, "but that's the one they're going with."

At tonight's debate Romney will have to focus on the fact "that the administration did make intelligence mistakes and security mistakes in the lead up to the attack, and the communication and messaging mistakes in the follow-up after the attack," says Rogin.

Tune in to ABCNews.com tonight for livestreaming coverage of the final 2012 Presidential Town Hall Debate in Boca Raton, Fla.

Beyond Benghazi, Rogin says Romney will make the case that there is a clear contrast between him and President Obama on three big issues: The use of American power abroad, its stance with Israel, and defense spending and the future of the nation's military spending.

Obama, however, has sent more troops to Afghanistan and involved the United States in Libya. Obama may be more multilateral than others would be, but the United States remains a player on the world stage.

"There's a gap here between Romney's rhetoric and the policies that he would set out that would actually be different from the Obama administration," says Rogin. "If you look at specific issues like Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, what a Romney administration would do if elected is not so different from what the Obama administration is doing right now, which is a very centrist, realist approach to national security."

What the Romney campaign does do, is blame the Obama administration for not doing enough.

"It's their creative sort of way of saying that our policies going forward aren't much different, but they somehow would have been more effective had they been in office," says Rogin.

For more, check out this week's episode of Political Punch.