The final presidential debate of the 2012 campaign was almost a complete reversal of the first debate. Last night, President Obama was aggressive and on the attack, while Mitt Romney was subdued. President Obama was hammered after the first debate for his sleepy performance, and he made sure not to make that mistake again with fiery deliveries in the last two debates.
Perhaps the most strike facet of the debate was how much the candidates agreed with each other. Mr. Romney endorsed several positions the Obama administration has taken. His critique centered around what he called Mr. Obama’s “apology tour”, and our relationship with Israel. The president was quick to defend his relationship with the Jewish state all night. His constant mentioning of Israel was a clear nod to the large Jewish population of Florida, where the debate was held.
Conservatives are sure to be angry about Mr. Romney’s refusal to attack the president on Libya. Twitter was abuzz with disappointment over his refusal to engage on the president on this topic. The Benghazi incident has dominated conservative news for the past few weeks, but the topic did not last long at the debate.
The former Massachusetts governor rarely attacked, and did not offer many specifics on his foreign policy. Mr. Romney spoke in broad terms, and attempted to shift the debate back to the economy as often as he could. Mr. Romney is not known for his foreign policy chops, as his background prior to being governor was in the private sector. Polling shows economic issues to be his strength, and he attempted to exploit that fact throughout the night.
President Obama got in the biggest zinger of the night when answering a charge from Mr. Romney on the shrinking size of the US Navy and Air Force. When accused of shrinking the military to sizes not seen since the last century, President Obama admitted that we have less boats, but that was because of advancing technology. He quipped that we had less horses and bayonets too. The line drew a lot of attention online, with horses and bayonets trending on Twitter.
The president’s advantage was clear early on in the debate. An incumbent president typically has the advantage in foreign policy debates, as they have the privilege of being the commander in chief for the past four years. Snap polls across the board showed the president being picked as the winner of the debate. The CBS snap poll found that 53% thought Obama won, compared to 23% for Romney. The rest thought it was a tie.
We are now two weeks away from election day. National polls show an extremely tight race. As of now, President Obama has the advantage in the electoral college. It appears as though Ohio is going to be the key state. Virginia and Florida are important as well, but Ohio is a must win for Mr. Romney. If the president takes Ohio, he only needs one or two more battle ground states to clinch the White House. This race is coming down to the wire.