It is clear to many who watched the debate, from undecided voters, to military personnel, to foreign policy and national security professionals, that Barack Obama won this debate. The president, from the outset, was more confident in both his record as commander-in-chief and his global vision for the next four years.
Republican challenger Mitt Romney showed a lack of confidence, while at the same time, agreeing with many of the foreign policy choices President Obama has made. When pressed early on, Romney made a pivot from his weakness (foreign policy) to what he believed was Obama's primary weakness, the handling of the economy. For the next few minutes, this foreign policy debate was spent talking about the economy. Moderator Bob Schieffer got them back on track discussing cuts to the military. Romney believes that any military cuts would leave us vulnerable. However, Obama came back with what his own military advisors believe is the right course; focusing our efforts on increased capability and the necessary tools needed for cybersecurity. When asked about the issue of the size of the Navy, Obama made what was perhaps the quip of the night. “We may have fewer ships, but we also have fewer horses and bayonets. The nature of conflict changes. This is not a game of Battleship.”
Romney spent the rest of the debate telling the American People how he would do things differently. The funny thing about that is, Obama is currently doing the same thing. "I'm glad (Romney) agrees with me. It seems he would do the same thing, except do it louder", said Obama. For example, Romney said he would strengthen ties with Israel, but Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in August 2011, “I can hardly remember a better period of support, American support and backing and cooperation and similar strategic understanding of events around us than what we have right now.” As for Pakistan, Romney suggested that he would use a carrot and stick approach with dealing with a government that has ties to terrorism. President Obama is currently tying their Foreign Aid to curbing their support for terror.
The president won this debate on foreign policy because he built that (pun intended). Much of what Romney said is the exact same thing the president is doing. When pressed, Romney tried to pivot to the economy. But what makes foreign affairs relevant to voters is that when something happens elsewhere in the world, it will have an effect here at home.
For ful debate analysis from Jeff Danovich, see here.