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Oh yeah, another major campaign event in which Romney didn't mention veterans at all.


The closing statement is a referendum on progress. I'm not sure Obama wins that one clearly, BUT he did win this debate clearly.

Obama dominated the first 20 minutes on Arab Spring and owned the China debate. Iran was a wash but Romney needed a clear win. Obama did a great job on the defense budget where Romney thought he had a strength. The Bin Laden story was a highlight the night.

Obama was both trustworthy and likeable. Romney looked uncomfotable but he did get his stride for a bit. By contrast though, Obama's steely resolve and steady leadership were on display. This is a good night for Obama.

I hope people were watching the debate and not just Monday Night Football!

UPDATE 10:29pm

Romney and Obama have both mentioned Pennsylvania in the debate. Does this mean PA is back on the map? I hope not.

UPDATE 10:23pm

I'll give Romney credit for a decent response to the trade war question.

Obama's response about betting on American workers instead of the Chinese = WIN.

The President's "I hate you Romney" look has morphed into a "Thanks for agreeing with me so much, I'm listening attentively to crush you later" aka the "I'm President and I will be for the next 4 years" look.

UPDATE 10:18pm

Obama's doing a great job reminding folks of his strong record of leveling the playing field with China on trade. Curious talking point from Romney that China wants the world to be free and open. Ummm.... FALSE.

UPDATE 10:13pm

This is like a funhouse mirror. A Republican critique of a Democrat is "we have to do more than just killing bad guys." Wowzers.

UPDATE 10:08pm

Obama is doing a great job building trust with the audience. He looks calm, cool, collected, and (this is key) like a leader with strong resolve. And we've got some pro-vet talk.

I'm really enjoying watching this debate. Barack, undecided voters are liking you!

UPDATE 10:03pm

Obama's reminder of taking out Bin Laden time. The story of the little girl thanking Obama for getting Bin Laden is HUGE!

UPDATE 10:00pm

The classic hypothetical "what if Israel attacks Iran" got smacked down by... Romney! It seems like he thinks he might actually be President and doesn't want to establish red lines and bluster about Israel anymore. Very interesting moment.

UPDATE 9:56pm

It was pretty interesting to see Romney's "apology tour" talking point (that conservatives looooovvvveee) fall so completely flat on the dial. Now he's bringing it up again and it still isn't working.

Obama has finally busted out a reminder that Romney was heavily invested in Chinese companies that were hurting American jobs. 

UPDATE 9:52pm

At 9:50pm Obama buckles and says "UN resolutions." Immediately conservatives begin cutting attack ads!

Obama makes a crucial point - Iran sanctions only work when other countries are on board. Thank you! Really good way of teaching the public what's happening on Iran without getting wonky.

UPDATE 9:48pm

Some thoughts from friends who can't write publicly:

Romney says he wants to intervene in Syria but doesn't want to use the military to do it. Maybe he thinks Assad will self-deport?

Maybe Romney thinks he can solve the deficit problem and spend more on defense like he did in college - by borrowing money from his parents.


But, Romney's Iran response is really good. He's showing some signs of life.

UPDATE 9:44pm

-1 for Romney for being the first to "sequester"

Obama smack down saying yes we have less ships, also less bayonets.

UPDATE 9:42pm

Romney's response on how he pays for defense spending is woefully insufficient. When Obama starts talking about cutting military spending he gets a big gap with women very happy and men just ok.

First mention of cyber security and budget driven by strategy - that's a great response for how you create a defense budget.

UPDATE 9:37pm

Romney had a good moment riffing on economic development. Somehow he got around to bashing teachers unions in a foreign policy debate, which just shows how much Republicans hate teachers.

Obama comes back with education as economic competitiveness. 4 total debates and this is the first talk about education. Education talk is good for Dems - they start with inherent trust. Women loving it on the dial.

UPDATE 9:32pm

A bunch of thoughts going back a while since PolicyMic was down

- Obama's litany of Romney waffles might be his version of Romney's litany of economic weaknesses from debate 2. Strong moment.

- Romney just said troops about 50 times. Obama responded with a lesson from being Commander in Chief. Early advantage to the Prez.

- Nice use of basic Truman Project framing. Dems = strong and steady vs. Republicans = reckless according to Obama.

- Obama was sky high on the dial when talking about nation building here at home. Score another for Obama for taking that mantle first.

- Romney's Syria answer scoring well but he just said to arm Syria. Yeesh, maybe not that good an idea? Obama good response by saying "We are leading" on Syria.

- Romney is NOT enjoying eating his former words over and over. He's praying for this to be over. This is almost a reversal of debate 1. ZERO red meat for the right from Romney.

- Obama asked about Egypt and tosses out the first JFK reference. Everybody drink a Guinness!

- Romney is all about friends and allies and peace tonight. What happened to Republican "we gotta go it alone" ideology? Dem consensus?

- Romney took 28 minutes to talk about defense cuts. Wow. Surprising. I thought he'd bring that up within the first two questions.

- Romney's best moment yet, getting back into this thing is at 9:29 talking about American economic strength as foreign policy strength.

- Obama comes back with energy independence and reduced deficit = awesome.

UPDATE 9:09pm

Starting with Libya is a bold moderator move. The early Romney strategy seems to be showing depth and being measured. Sounding kinda liberal and wonky, no zingers. Kind of a snooze.

Obama sticking to the basics - not much movement on the dial but a good job reminding voters of successes to start. Obama throws the first punch at the end of his answer.

UPDATE 9:00pm

Here we go - gonna be interesting to see if viewership is high considering we're competing against both MNF and an NLCS game 7. Come on voters, care about the future of the world!

Presidential Debate Live Coverage: Will Mitt Take a Real Position?

The answer is: probably not. Here's why...

The Republican Party is divided among three groups with starkly different world views when it comes to foreign policy.

First, you have Bush-Cheney neocons. These are folks, like Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, who believe America has a moral obligation to spread its awesomeness throughout the world. A lot of people would agree in principle, but not in practical application. That's because neocons aren't really concerned with the "how" or the cost of their democracy promotion efforts. So while they built an internal consensus in the Bush administration, they've been discredited for doing things like invading Iraq for fake reasons without an exit plan, and declaring "mission accomplished" a decade early. When you hear chicken hawk talk like, "Obama quit on Afghanistan by setting a withdrawal date," or, "We should have boots on the ground in Libya," that's these guys. But Romney can't completely embrace them because, well, most of the public thinks they're nuts (they are in fact quite impractical).

Second, you have the Ron Paul isolationists. These are folks who think America is overextended in the world and we should just build a big fence across the border with Mexico and tend to our own darn problems. Compelling to many, until we take half of one second to realize that Earth doesn't quite work that way in the 21st century. You're hearing their influences when you catch phrases like, "It's time to do nation building here at home," and, "China is manipulating their currency so we should jack up tariffs on their exports." (Never mind that a trade war with China would completely end the American middle class standard of living. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.) Sometimes conservative isolationism makes for good political rally red meat, but Mitt Romney could never actually govern with an isolationist agenda of cutting off trade and ignoring international terrorism. Not many people know what Romney really believes, but I'm sure that's not it.

Third, you have Reagan era realists. These are the folks who don't care so much about ideology as much as they care about America being maximally powerful. If making a deal with a dictator makes America powerful, then do it. If ignoring a genocide in Darfur saves money, then do it. If the UN slows us down, then stop doing it. This is the Romney of "it's not worth moving heaven and earth to find Bin Laden." Realism was arguably useful in decades past - before an Egyptian in the desert with $1000 annual income had a smart phone that told him everything the US was doing. Now, instead, we need to have some consistency in our foreign policy because it's pretty easy to figure out if America is walking the walk or just talking the talk. Since Romney has been about as consistent as Arnold Schwarzenegger has been faithful to his marriage vows, realism is probably Mitt's general approach to the world. But, from a political perspective, realism is hard to explain because it is values-devoid. Mitt would never be able to stand up tonight and say, "Forget about the Arab Spring, it's a waste of money to try building democracy for those countries, so just wait until the military takes over and make a deal to get cheap oil."

The result for Romney's campaign is a completely muddled foreign policy with an internal battle between neocons who still control resources (Rove's super PACs), outdated Cold War realist policy wonks, and political hacks trying to appease anti-trade isolationists in the Midwest battleground in a desperate attempt to keep Ohio on the map for the king of outsourcing. This is why Mitt repeatedly does head-scratching things like attacking the President for setting a timeline to leave Afghanistan, while agreeing with that same timeline when pressed for alternative.

Obama can be very effective tonight if he gets Romney to do less criticizing and more explaining his own positions. Because no matter what Mitt says, it'll anger at least one of these groups. We'll be tracking Mitt's vain attempt to keep the Republican base together by lobbing repeated attacks at Obama. Obama needs to arm himself with a simple phrase like, "Governor, you can't be the leader of the free world if all you do is attack and never lay out a vision." Check in again when the debate starts.