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Thoughts on the Last Presidential Debate 2012

Posted at: 10/23/2012 5:55 AM
By: Dr. Timothy Kneeland -- Political Blogger

In the last presidential debate President Obama and Mitt Romney clashed on a number of decisions made by the administration on foreign policy.  Despite their arguments about the fine points of policy difference, viewers of the debate were probably more struck by how similar their policies really are especially as it relates to the Middle East.

They two men found some common ground on Libya, Syria, Iran and Afghanistan.   Romney tried to characterize Obama’s overall policies as out of touch and in the long-run detrimental to American influence in the world.  Obama tried to show how Romney’s foreign policy ideas have always been wrong.   In what was one of a number of attempts to tie Romney to Bush 43, Obama accused Romney of recklessness in foreign policy, implied he would use a military option as the main ingredient in Western Asia, and that his ideas about Russia were remnants of the Cold War.  Romney deflected much of this finding haven in the middle and made it clear he was neither George W Bush, nor a war-monger.

Romney had the calmer demeanor and avoided direct confrontation with the incumbent.  Clearly his strategy was to look and sound presidential so people could imagine him in the Oval Office.   In a striking reversal of roles, the President of the United States sounded more like the challenger to the incumbent with his one liner and zingers.   These may have played well with the base but the President’s assertiveness may hurt him among independent voters.

Both men tried, as often as possible, to bring the discussion back to jobs, jobs, and yes, jobs.  The economy is the main factor in the election and both men know it.  They had long, if not rambling, discussions of the economy loosely tied to foreign policy.  The moderator did a fair job of reining them in from time-to-time.    

I do not see a clear winner in this debate since the President and Romney both achieved what they wanted to.    Perhaps Romney wins on a technicality since he was able to achieve his goal of standing toe – to –toe with the President and not look weak or make a major gaffe.