Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Debate Three: Advantage Romney !

Mitt Romney had a strategic victory in the third debate today, which Barack Obama needed to win.

Romney decided to smile and be the moderate that Obama wanted to claim he was not. He did not say a single thing to support Obama's attack that he was risky and prone to war. He didn't savage Obama even on Libya, reserving his one real attack (other than on the economy) on the Obama ''apology tour'', with plenty of damning examples of Obama having signalled weakness.

He was also very effective in repeatedly bringing the economy into the argument on foreign affairs, making the point that a weaker America could not command respect or project the power to make it safe. He also had the second best line of the night, which helped to neuter Obama's barrage of attacks: ''Attacking me is not an agenda. Attacking me is not talking about how we're going to deal with the challenges of the Middle East.''

Romney also avoided making any mistakes in an area in which the incumbent usually has the advantage. He spoke fluidly on all areas, without spelling out any profound difference with Obama on future policy. Overall impression: Romney was a very pleasant, confident, ''sunny'' man -- a bit of Reagan -- who could bring that famous ''morning in America'' feeling. He was capable and had his eyes firmly on creating jobs -- more central to the election than foreign affairs.

Barack Obama did not do badly....pushing his socialist government-will-fix-things line. In fact, he had the best single line of the night in picking up Romney for his complaint that the navy hadn't had so few vessels in a century. Obama pointed out things had changed: ''Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets.'' -- a sharp put-down spoiled only by an unpresidential rudeness. Indeed, Obama's aggression throughout, trying to paint a contrast that Romney largely wanted to paint out, verged on the snarky, but at times Obama seemed more familiar with the issues under discussion. This was more a  result of his direct exposure to these issues over his term.

But what will voters think most important to them? Obama's foreign policies subtleties or Romney's program to restore America's economy? What style would impress most -- Obama's aggression, nuances and condescension or Romney's genial optimism and air of the practical man? Given those two questions, Romney gained most from this debate.

The Way I See It....you can score this debate a win on energy for Obama, but a win on the facts and the long game for Romney. Moderator Bob Schieffer was probably the best of the three presidential moderators. Both candidates got roughly the same amount of talk time, neither got the patently false Candy Crowley fact check.

Mitt Romney accomplished what he set out to do today. He went toe-to-toe with the sitting, snarking president three times and acquitted himself well enough to have the majority of thinking Americans see him as the next President of the United States.

UPDATE:  President Obama got a Twitter drubbing tonight as a result of comparing U.S. Navy ships to obsolete war horses and bayonets. One Twitterer said, ''We're sure that all of our fine sailors appreciated hearing their Commander in Chief  (now being called Commander McSnark) declare them obsolete.''  As for those denizens of the interwebs, well, someone should have told the president how memes work before they gave him that line. Oh...right, he was being prepped by John Kerry.  Never mind!

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