Without question, President Obama had a good night last night but he failed to achieve his goal of beating Mitt Romney by landing political punches that successfully painted Romney as a clueless, warmonger whom Americans can’t trust on the world stage (See the transcript and video of the entire debate at the bottom of this post).
From the beginning it was clear that the two men had two entirely different demeanors. President Obama began and ended the night with an aggressive, combative almost angry quality that was often sarcastic and condescending. For his part, Romney was friendly, respectful and un-rattled by the President. But most of all, while President Obama failed to essentially disqualify Romney and his foreign policy vision, Governor Romney again passed the presidential test and proved to the American people that he is prepared to take on the job of President.
President Obama tried his best to describe Romney as “always wrong”, and “all over the map” and at one point he even spoke to the Governor as if he were a child after launching in to this diatribe about Romney’s call for a stronger navy;
“You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”
For Romney, while he spent most of the night demonstrating that he is quite informed on matters of foreign policy and proving that he has a vision for America’s role in the world, he never exhibited the type of bitter and arrogant behavior that was put on display by the President. And in one of his strongest remarks of the night, Romney turned the attacks against him on to the President ;
“I can say this, that we’re talking about the Middle East and how to help the Middle East reject the kind of terrorism we’re seeing, and the rising tide of tumult and – and confusion. And – and attacking me is not an agenda. Attacking me is not talking about how we’re going to deal with the challenges that exist in the Middle East, and take advantage of the opportunity there, and stem the tide of this violence.”said Romney.
Overall, President Obama may have actually won last night’s debate on the basis of his ability to defend his own unravelling foreign policy by aggressively trying to put Romney on the defense throughout the night. But Romney was actually less defensive than the President and held his own. In doing so Romney made this debate a draw, which for a challenger to a sitting President is ultimately a win.
Many may not initially see it that that way though. That includes Romney supporters, who may have been disappointed by the fact that Mitt Romney did not beat President Obama over the head with Benghazi. But as I suggested in a post prior to the debate any attempt to go after the President so aggressively on Benghazi risked “the creation of a new narrative that will suggest that Romney took legitimate questions about the events surrounding Benghazi and exploited them by over-politicizing them in a desperate attempt to win the presidential election. Such a narrative just two weeks before Election Day would produce irreversibly damaging results for the Romney-Ryan ticket and future headlines in the biased liberal media will deal more with their accusing Romney of attempting to exploit Benghazi than the facts that make Mitt Romney right to make Benghazi an issue”.
“So while the temptation to confront President Obama with the evidence and questions surrounding the obvious foreign policy and national security blunders behind Benghazi, Romney would probably be best advised to allude to these legitimate concerns in broader terms.”
It is clear that Governor Romney agreed and instead he used this debate as an opportunity to apply a strategy that targeted listeners of the debate who’s votes he needs to win in key battleground states such as Florida and Ohio. This too was a point I predicted Romney would take in the post refered to above. Romney applied this strategy by offering a solid defense of his position on the auto bailouts, a point Romney proved the President to be wrong about when he mischaracterizes Romney’s real position. Romney’s decision to spend time explaining that domestic policy issue during a foreign policy debate was a clear attempt by Romney to address the swing voters among Ohio’s auto workers.
Romney also appealed quite well to the relatively large Jewish vote in the battleground state of Florida. In one exchange between the two men, Romney eloquently laid out how much “daylight” President Obama created “between ourselves and Israel”.
All of this means that Governor Romney accomplished all that he really needed to last night. Not only did he avoid making any gaffe’s, he demonstrated a clear knowledge and command of foreign policy issues. He also conducted himself in a way that avoided any negative impressions among voters who watched the debate. While President Obama may have turned off some voters with his small and petty style during the debate, Romney was strong, confident and principled.
In the final analysis Romney needed to demonstrate that he is presidential and on equal footing with President Obama and when all was said and done, he did just that. That means that despite President Obama’s strong but condescending performance, Mitt Romney won. Why? Because President Obama failed to change few if any of the undecided minds that he needed to if he wants to win this election. But Romney’s inoffensive performance added to his credibility as a candidate and it quite tactfully targeted the voters he needed to speak to last night. And with the momentum behind Mitt, President Obama failed to turn this election around.
Click here for or a complete transcript of the debate. See the full video of the debate below:
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