President Obama and Mitt Romney faced off in their third and final presidential debate on Monday. The debate focused primarily on foreign policy but as expected, both candidates tried to tie our strength around the world to our economic strength here at home.
Here are a few quick takeaways:
1) Obama Dominated: I said this after the second debate but I will say even more forcefully after watching this debate; where was this in Denver? If President Obama had performed like he did on Monday in the very first debate, this race would be over right now. The president struck the right balance between defending his record and attacking Mitt Romney's positions on foreign policy and economic matters. On issue after issue, he had Romney on defense and forced Romney to walk back his previous “severely conservative” positions to the point where he started agreeing with the president on many of the issues being discussed.
2) Romney whiffs on Libya ... again: For the third time since four Americans were killed on Sept 11, 2012, Mitt Romney has failed to pin down the president on his widely panned response to the attacks in Libya. It was the first question of the debate and Romney let the president skate on the issue. He did not bring it up for the rest of the night. Was he trying to avoid walking into a trap like he did in last weeks debate? This may be the most surprising part of the the night.
3) Foreign Policy is not in Mitt Romney's wheelhouse: Agree with his economic policies or not, Mitt Romney is clearly more versed in talking about the economy than he is when talking about foreign policy. Many of Romney's answers tonight were disjointed and rambling as opposed to the president who hit his points with relative ease. Although to his credit, his best answer of the night came when he was discussing the dangers of a nuclear armed Pakistan deteriorating into a failed state.
4) Enough of the “apology tour” and “throwing Israel under the bus” lines of attack: I hate to break it to Governor Romney (and my friends on the right), but President Obama has never gone on an “apology tour.” Not once has he apologized for what our country represents, our economic power, or our military power. If anybody has any evidence to prove me wrong then please share it. I have yet to see any.
President Obama also put to rest the notion that he does not see Israel as a true ally once and for all. President Obama's best moment of the night came when he talked about meeting the families of those killed to injured by Hamas rocket attacks while in Israel as a candidate in 2008. Romney had absolutely no response for that answer and it was pretty obvious that he walked into a trap on the subject of Israel.
5) Women are still the main target for each candidate: Polls and focus groups have shown that women do not like a lot of tough talk on foreign policy and are much more war weary than men are. Romeny was clearly aware of this as he sought to soften his foreign policy rhetoric that he as been using throughout the campaign. Women voters have been moving towards Romney over the last three weeks and he he tried to keep them in his corner tonight.
Meanwhile the president, knowing that he is losing women support, on a few occasions spoke of women's rights throughout the Middle East and also tried to take a softer approach to foreign policy.
At the end of the day, it is tough to tell if the president's performance will be enough to stop Romney's surge in the polls. Even though snap polls show an overwhelming number of voters believe he won this debate, his Achilles heel is still an economy that is recovering too slowly in the eyes of many Americans. That is where the election will be decided. So while it was a very good night for the president, it remains to be seen if it is enough to convince the American people that he deserves a second term.
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