Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Endgame: Tonight's Debate
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney squared off for the final time tonight. Who won?
Just like the second debate, the polls show things pretty even, with maybe a slight edge for President Obama by the usual suspects. But even they can't avoid what amounts to a Romney win on substance.
For instance, CNN's poll had 48% saying Obama won, 40% Romney.
But as far as changing votes, 24% said they were more inclined to vote for Obama, 25% for Romney.
On the question of who was qualified to be Commander in Chief: 60% said Romney was, while 63% said Obama was.
The bottom line? President Obama needed a knockout tonight, and he didn't come close to getting one. He needed to nail down the 'kill Romney ' strategy he and his campaign have pursued since day one instead on running on their record and to give the American people some clue as to what their agenda for a second term..and he failed.
As a matter of fact, Mitt Romney addressed this directly with one of the best lines of the night: "Attacking me is not an agenda."
The Obama campaign has spent hundreds of millions of dollars creating a caricature of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as soulless vampires with no regard for the American people and lacking the stature to lead.And the complaisant Obama media has cooperated by doing their best to shroud the GOP candidates in a media bubble.
The debates allowed the American people to see Mitt Romney as concerned, decent, engaged and yes, presidential. They showed Paul Ryan as mature and ready to lead if he needed to.The undecided voters were finally allowed to compare the two tickets and compare for themselves.
In tonight's foreign policy debate, Barack Obama once again could not run from his record, even with Bob Schieffer's assistance. Even a lot people who don't follow foreign policy issues that closely have a feeling that America is weaker and less decisive than four years ago.Governor Romney was also able to link this with the President's economic failures and the shrinking of our military, and to propose an alternative direction. He was able to point out how the president's actions resonated in the Middle East,and he actually used the term 'jihadist', a welcome change.
The president had no real reply to that, and veered back to his usual strategy - change the subject and attack Romney. It didn't work particularly well, except in the minds of the president's True Believers.The president's dismissive snark to Romney's concern about our shrinking Navy on Obama's watch being smaller than at any time since 1916 - "We use less horses and bayonets than we did in 1916 too" shows all to clearly who's unworthy of being commander in chief.
Was Mitt Romney as strong as I would have liked him to be? No.
For instance,just two point among many: Romney failed to challenge the president's chest thumping on how "we" (meaning him and his administration) had ended the Iraq War, The reality was that President Bush left office with the agreement of forces turning over security to the Iraqis in place, and that agreement was due to Generals Petraeus and Ordiano's successful surge strategy, a strategy that Senators Obama, Clinton and Biden did their very best to sabotage and malign at every opportunity. President Obama deserves zero credit for that, the reverse in fact, and the American people need to be reminded.
Imagine this little hand grenade being tossed last night with a smile and an attitude of geniality: "Mr. President, you know, you didn't actually end the Iraq War. The agreement on turning over security control to the Iraqis was actually completed during President Bush's term in office, you merely abided by that agreement and our disengagement was only possible because of the surge strategy you vigorously opposed and attempted to sabotage as a senator. In view of all the things you've blamed President Bush for during your term in office, are you prepared to be gracious enough tonight to give President Bush credit for presiding over the strategy that enabled you to complete that disengagement?"
I also would have challenged his intervention in Libya. We took out Moamar Khaddaffi at a cost of a billion dollars , a despot who had given up support for terrorism, that we were giving foreign aid to and who was helping our CIA finger members of Al Qaeda in the Maghreb. In his place, we enabled rebels who we knew had major al-Qaeda, salifist and Islamist elements not only to take over but to plunder Khaddaffi's heavy weapons stocks, and I would have loved to see Romney point out that the mortars, Ak-47's and RPGs used against our consulate in Benghazi almost certainly got into Al-Qaeda and their associate militia's hands solely because of the Obama Administration's intervention.
All in all though, Mitt Romney did exactly what he had to do...he stayed focused and presidential, and President Obama failed to move him off that stance.He did not allow Obama to paint him as some kind of neocon war crazy fanatic.
Charles Krauthammer made the interesting point that Romney made the strategic decision not to go after the president directly, but to concentrate on the perception of America's stance in the world..the big picture as opposed to President Obama's small, petty attacks.
Tonight's debate is not going to slow Romney's momentum. That what Obama needed to do, and on that basis, the president lost.