Covering a lot of ground, from Libya and Syria to Iran, Afghanistan, and Iraq, the third presidential debate was alternately frustrating, boring, and repetitive. Mitt Romney grew stronger throughout the debate, while the President grew weaker. Romney's closing statement struck the exact right note of working in a bi-partisan manner to "carry the torch" of freedom back to America in the future.
Romney also did something the President neglected to do: He asked for the job.
The President may have hurt himself with a few snarky comments early in the debate with comments like, "I'm glad you recognize Al Qaeda as a threat," and "You seem to think foreign policy is playing Battleship."
Another way the President hurt himself was his repeated tendency to use his answering time to attack Mitt Romney. Romney himself pointed this out toward the end of the debate, saying, "Attacking me does nothing to answer the question about China."
Mr. Romney maintained a benign expression through most of the debate, while the President looked more aggressive and dismissive while Mr. Romney was speaking. Throughout the past two debates, this aggressive demeanor has proven appealing to the Democrat party base, and less appealing to undecided and independent voters.
The Romney team has said that Mr. Romney selected the approach, tone and demeanor for this debate. He maintained a "happy warrior" demeanor throughout, with only a few disagreements with the President that veered toward the contentiousness of the second debate.
Based on a strong closing statement that looked and sounded presidential, Romney won the debate. Offering a more clear vision for the future and a positive vision, Romney did the job he needed to do. As to the President, Victor Davis Hanson identified the issue.
I had a lot of Obamas in class. They sat in the front of the room, posed long eloquent questions, mellifluously interrupted the lectures with clever refinements and qualifications, often self-referenced all that they had read and done — and then pow!: you grade their first test and there is simply nothing there: a D or F. It was quite stunning: how could a student be so confident in his rhetoric and so dismal in his performance?
It's been that way for the past four years. I am certain Mr. Obama believes he "won." He also thought he didn't even need to ask for the job. All he had to do was repeat his assertion that he is "fighting for Americans" and "thinking of them." If there is one thing the past four years has proven, it's that the thought does not count.
For a full recap and analysis of the debate, including real-time play by play, see here.