The debates are over and most of the country, outside of the DC beltway, is glad to them come to close. Those who were hoping for another raucous round of debating as we saw in the second debate, were likely somewhat disappointed, or at the very least confused. While Romney tried throughout to sound tough, presidential and firm on his stances, he basically agreed with Obama time and time again. In terms of trying to prove why people should toss Obama out and vote him in, Romney failed to make the case.
Overall I was keeping a rather loose score on each period of questioning and while some were easily a draw, others soundly went to Obama. He not only proved his positions were the same as Romney was now claiming to have (even though many were wildly different only a couple weeks ago), but he continually reminded the audience of what Romney said during the 18-month campaign. His “etch-a-sketch” meme was pulled out and put on full display and it played handily into Obama’s critique of Romney as an unsound and frivolous leader. Romney was never able to fully dissuade that impression tonight, even though he has before.
He just looked unsure of himself from the moment he sat down. He knew the attacks were going to come and someone in his campaign felt it was best not to retaliate after the horrible stumble in the second debate. They just sat there and took blow after blow and you could see the forced smile on Romney’s face become a plastic mask of agony.
Let’s look at the points where they both agreed:
- Virtually identical positions on Syria (no troops on the ground, help the opposition without letting weapons get into radical hands)
- Promote women’s rights (obvious pandering from both sides to American women, but Obama has a much better track record here and overwhelming support in terms of the gender gap)
- Sanctions on Iran (Romney’s only difference is he said he would have started earlier, which Obama should have done when he wasn’t president?)
Sadly, in a debate that was touted to focus on foreign affairs, that’s about the full spectrum of what they discussed. Both candidates knew that right now the economy is still number one and a majority of the country doesn’t want to hear about what we plan to do overseas, but instead what we intend to do here. Each of them pivoted back to American shores as quickly as possible; in some cases by just refusing to answer the question in front of them.
Yet, the attacks didn’t stop just because they got back on the economy, supposedly Romney’s strong suit. Romney touted his saving of the Salt Lake City Olympics, but continually failed to mention the huge government subsidies he got that made it possible. Romney said government doesn’t create jobs and while they are not the center of a working economy, I think the highway builders, public school teachers and umpteen defense contractors would be surprised to hear that.
He also fell back on roundly debunked Repubilcan talking points, like the apology tour and the “daylight between the US and Israel”. These aren’t even brought up on FoxNews any more because they are worn out, but Romney was on his heels most of the night and began to just grasp at straws (and strawmen).
While Obama does have legitmate foreign policy issues to bring up, Romney failed to get in a clean shot and let the president dictate where he wanted to take the evening. As the closing statements wrapped up, the zingers of the night (which is mostly what the news will play on repeat, while becoming the new internet meme for the week) both went to Obama. His line about having “less horses and bayonets” was the strongest one, making Romney look childish, but people are already riffing on “The 80’s called and want their policies back”, which I actually believe made Obama look more the child.
The president ended strong, while Romney did his best to agree his way through the night and avoid being knocked out. It might have saved him from making another huge mistake like last time, but it also displayed a sense of weakness to stand for his own policies. Romney survived the night, but the cost didn’t appear to be worth it.