"It's the economy stupid!" Le nerf de la guerre, c'est l'économie. Depuis l'ère Clinton, les Américains résument en ces termes la prééminence des questions économiques sur la politique internationale dans les campagnes présidentielles. Au crépuscule d'une crise multiforme qui aura durement marqué le mandat de Barack Obama, cet adage a toutes les chances de se vérifier le 6 novembre prochain.

Faut-il pour autant zapper le troisième et dernier débat consacré aux questions internationales, qui opposera ce lundi 22 octobre le président sortant à son challenger Mitt Romney?

Au coude à coude dans les sondages, les deux candidats en lice ne se font guère d'illusion sur l'impact de leur échange sur la suite des évènements. "Tout le monde reconnaît que l'emploi et l'économie, d'autant plus après quatre années de reprise anémique, sont l'enjeu numéro un de l'élection", a reconnu Alex Wong, conseiller de politique étrangère de Mitt Romney.

Mais alors que leur première confrontation (consacrée à la politique intérieure et à l'économie) avait nettement tourné en faveur du républicain, le match retour (questions du public) avait été marqué par le réveil d'un Barack Obama offensif et décidé à reprendre l'avantage. Pour les quelques dizaines de millions d'électeurs qui feront l'effort de suivre le troisième et dernier round ce soir, cet ultime face-à-face aura donc tout d'un ultime test destiné à trancher qui de Barack Obama et Mitt Romney est sorti vainqueur des trois débats télévisés.

Et à défaut de pouvoir compter sur une victoire par KO, chacun des participants aura à l'esprit que son image pourrait souffrir d'une prestation calamiteuse sur des sujets aussi sensibles que le terrorisme ou le sort des GI's basées à l'étranger.

Obama, l'Iran et le syndrome Carter...

Sur le papier, un président sortant devrait toujours avoir l'avantage lorsqu'il s'agit de politique internationale. Aux affaires depuis 4 ans, Barack Obama n'est-il pas le seul à pouvoir revendiquer une quelconque expérience en la matière? Parmi les points forts de son bilan, le président démocrate ne manquera pas de marteler son principal fait d'arme: la mort d'Oussama Ben Laden. Un évènement vécu aux Etats-Unis comme la riposte ultime aux attentats du 11-septembre.

Mais Barack Obama devra également répondre aux critiques répétées de son adversaire sur la "faiblesse" de sa politique extérieure. Et le contexte général de cette élection -guerre civile en Syrie, attentat de Benghazi, menace nucléaire en Iran- n'a rien d'un avantage pour le locataire de la Maison Blanche.

"Au lieu de mettre en exergue sa crédibilité, son rôle de 'commander-in-chief' pourrait le rendre plus vulnérable en mettant en lumière toute une série de crises aujourd'hui sans issue", analyse le Washington Post.

Le retour de la question iranienne, précipitée ce week-end par la rumeur de négociations bilatérales entre Téhéran et Washington sur le programme nucléaire du régime d'Ajmadhinejad, ne devrait pas faciliter la tâche du président démocrate, accusé par les républicains de manquer de fermeté à l'égard des ennemis d'Israël, de la Chine et du monde arabo-musulman en général. Barack Obama aura probablement à l'esprit la défaite du président Carter en 1976, dont la campagne avait été plombée par la crise des otages américains à Téhéran.


L'obsession de Romney: gare à la gaffe

Si elles ne structurent pas le vote des électeurs américains, les questions internationales façonnent l'image des candidats à la Maison Blanche. Le problème se pose de manière plus aiguë encore pour le challenger Mitt Romney dont les compétences diplomatiques ont été mises à rude épreuve. Les électeurs américains se souviendront-ils de la seule tournée européenne du républicain qui s'était soldée par une série de cafouillages bien peu reluisantes?

Peut-être, d'autant que l'ex-gouverneur du Massachusetts a frôlé la correctionnelle lors du second débat lorsqu'il a été sèchement recadré par l'animatrice du débat pour des allégations un peu légères sur la Libye.

Toujours est-il que Mitt Romney est parvenu à améliorer sa cote de confiance depuis le premier débat. 47% des électeurs se disent confiants ou persuadés qu'il ferait un bon travail en tant que président, soit une progression de cinq points par rapport au précédent sondage WSJ/NBC. L'ancien gouverneur du Massachusetts a également réduit de huit à cinq points son retard sur le président sortant sur ses capacités à être un bon "commandant-en-chef" des forces armées.

Plus que son élection, c'est sa crédibilité en tant qu'homme d'Etat que Mitt Romney joue ce soir. Un enjeu pas tout à fait déterminant mais qui pénalisa durement le président sortant Gérald Ford lors de sa bourde monumentale prononcée à l'occasion de son face à face avec le démocrate Jimmy Carter en 1976.


Ces sujets avec lesquels on ne plaisante pas

Au-delà de leur situation politique personnelle, Mitt Romney et Barack Obama devront tout particulièrement se concentrer sur les sujets ultra-sensibles qui transcendent les clivages partisans. Les relations avec Israël et le soutien à Jérusalem sont des questions stratégiques dans cette élection. Or l'incapacité de Barack Obama à empêcher l'implantation de nouvelles colonies ou à faire reculer la menace nucléaire iranienne ne plaide pas en faveur de son bilan. Et ses relations glaciales avec Benyamin Nétanyahou pourraient être exploitées par un Mitt Romney aux abois.

Mais la principale peau de banane reste la question des vétérans de guerre, sujet ultra-sensible alors que l'Amérique a envoyé plusieurs centaines de milliers d'hommes et de femmes se battre à l'étranger depuis 2001.

Sur cette question en particulier, le président sortant part clairement avec un avantage. La promesse d'un retrait des GI's stationnés en Irak a été tenue, celle du désengagement progressif des troupes américaines d'Afghanistan est en cours. Lors du second débat présidentiel, Barack Obama n'a d'ailleurs pas oublié de renvoyer son adversaire à sa phrase malheureuse sur les "47%" d'Américains dépendant des aides sociales. "Réfléchissez aux personnes dont il parlait", avait taclé Obama en citant notamment les vétérans "qui se sont sacrifiés pour ce pays" et les soldats "qui se battent pour nous partout dans le monde".

En promettant de "restaurer le leadership" mondial des Etats-Unis, quitte à se brouiller avec la Chine et à la Russie, Mitt Romney espère marcher dans les pas de Ronald Reagan, considéré aux Etats-Unis comme le fossoyeur du communisme. Au risque d'apparaître comme un candidat va-t-en-guerre? Réponse cette nuit.


LA FICHE TECHNIQUE DU DÉBAT

Lieu: Université de Lynn, Boca Raton (Floride)
Format: 15 minutes par candidat et par question sur six thèmes internationaux
Thèmes:

  • Le rôle de l'Amérique dans le monde

  • Notre guerre la plus longue: Afghanistan et Pakistan

  • Fils rouges: Israël et l'Iran

  • Le Moyen Orient en mutation et le nouveau visage du terrorisme (épisode 1)

  • Le Moyen Orient en mutation et le nouveau visage du terrorisme (épisode 2)

  • L'émergence de la Chine et le monde de demain

Loading Slideshow...
  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    US President Barack Obama (L) Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R) participate in the second presidential debate at the David Mack Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012, moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Mitt Romney, Barack Obama

    Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama shake hands after the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Mitt Romney, Barack Obama

    Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama shake hands after the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • President Barack Obama shakes hands with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at the end of the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    US President Barack Obama (L) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R) participate in the second presidential debate, the only held in a townhall format, at the David Mack Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012, moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    US President Barack Obama (R) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) participate in the second presidential debate, the only held in a townhall format, at the David Mack Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012, moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    US President Barack Obama (R) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) participate in the second presidential debate, the only held in a townhall format, at the David Mack Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012, moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

  • MItt Romney, Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speak during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • MItt Romney, Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney participate in the second presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    US President Barack Obama (R) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) participate in the second presidential debate, the only held in a townhall format, at the David Mack Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012, moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    US President Barack Obama (L) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R) participate in the second presidential debate, the only held in a townhall format, at the David Mack Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012, moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney listens as President Barack Obama speaks during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama speak during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • Barack Obama, Mitt Romney

    President Barack Obama, right, listens as Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney answers a question from a member of the audience during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012 in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

  • MItt Romney, Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney participate in the second presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speak during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • MItt Romney, Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney participate in the second presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Mitt Romney, Barack Obama

    Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama spar during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • President Barack Obama, left, and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney address members of the audience during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/Pool-Michael Reynolds)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    US President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney both speak at the same time during the second presidential debate October 16, 2012 at the David Mack Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    CNN's Candy Crowley (C) conducts the second presidential debate with US President Barack Obama (R) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) at the David Mack Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    US President Barack Obama (R) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) participate in the second presidential debate, the only held in a townhall format, at the David Mack Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012, moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    US President Barack Obama (R) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) participate in the second presidential debate, the only held in a townhall format, at the David Mack Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012, moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

  • MItt Romney, Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama speaks as Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney listens during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • President Barack Obama listens as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Mitt Romney, Barack Obama

    Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and and President Barack Obama answer a question during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • President Barack Obama addresses members of the audience during the second presidential debate with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/Pool-Shannon Stapleton)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    US President Barack Obama (R) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) participate in the second presidential debate, the only held in a townhall format, at the David Mack Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012, moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley. AFP PHOTO / Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • MItt Romney, Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama speaks as Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney listens during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • A member of the audience asks President Barack Obama a question during the second presidential debate with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/Pool-Win McNamee)

  • President Barack Obama, left, speaks to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/Pool-Win McNamee)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney and US President Barack Obama debate on October 16, 2012 during the second of three presidential debates at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. AFP PHOTO / Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Moderator Candy Crowley, center, addresses President Barack Obama, left, and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/Pool-Michael Reynolds)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney (L) and US President Barack Obama debate on October 16, 2012 during the second of three presidential debates at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney and US President Barack Obama debate on October 16, 2012 during the second of three presidential debates at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. AFP PHOTO / Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    US President Barack Obama (R) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) participate in the second presidential debate, the only held in a townhall format, at the David Mack Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012, moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley. AFP PHOTO / Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama speak during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Barack Obama, Mitt Romney

    Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney answers a question as President Barack Obama listens during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/Pool, Rick Wilking)

  • Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, left, addresses President Barack Obama during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/Pool-Shannon Stapleton)

  • Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney listens as President Barack Obama speaks during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • President Barack Obama addresses members of the audience during the second presidential debate with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/Pool-Shannon Stapleton)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney (rear) and US President Barack Obama debate on October 16, 2012 during the second of three presidential debates at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. AFP PHOTO / Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    US President Barack Obama (R) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) participate in the second presidential debate, the only held in a townhall format, at the David Mack Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012, moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    US President Barack Obama (R) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) participate in the second presidential debate, the only held in a townhall format, at the David Mack Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012, moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    US President Barack Obama (R) and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney argue during the second presidential debate, the only held in a townhall format, at the David Mack Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012, moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

  • MItt Romney, Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney participate in the second presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, left, listens as President Barack Obama addresses members of the audience during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/Pool-Michael Reynolds)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    US President Barack Obama (R) and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney argue during the second presidential debate, the only held in a townhall format, at the David Mack Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012, moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney (L) listens to US President Barack Obama on October 16, 2012 during the second of three presidential debates at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    US President Barack Obama (R) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) participate in the second presidential debate, the only held in a townhall format, at the David Mack Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012, moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley. AFP PHOTO / Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney (L) and US President Barack Obama debate on October 16, 2012 during the second of three presidential debates at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)


Loading Slideshow...
  • CA_SFC

  • CA_LAT

  • AR_ADG

  • AZ_AR

  • AK_ADN

  • AL_MA

  • AL_AS

  • MI_DFP

  • MA_BH

  • MA_BG

  • MD_TS

  • KS_WE

  • IA_DR

  • IN_IS

  • IL_CT-1

  • IL_CST

  • ID_LMT

  • GA_AJC

  • FL_TT

  • FL_NH

  • FL_TIMES

  • FL_MH

  • DC_WT

  • DC_WP

  • CT_TD

  • CO_DP

  • CA_SDUT

  • MO_KCS

  • MO_SLPD

  • NJ_SL

  • NE_OWH

  • CAN_TGAM

  • CAN_OC

  • WI_MJS

  • WA_ST

  • USAT

  • UT_SLT

  • TX_FWST

  • TX_DMN

  • SC_TS

  • PA_PPG

  • PA_PI

  • OR_TO

  • OK_DOK

  • OH_CD

  • OH_CPD

  • OH_CE

  • ND_TF

  • NC_FO

  • NY_MET

  • WSJ