How important is foreign policy to the Presidential race? At tonight's foreign policy debate, both Romney and Obama spent their closing arguments talking about the economy with barely a reference to foreign policy. And indeed, the economy insinuated itself into about half the discussions by both Romney and Obama.
Tonight, at the debate, one of the two candidates was confident and presidential. The other was President Obama.
Obama has spent the last six months trying to paint Romney as an irresponsible warmonger. Tonight, Romney channelled his inner Gandhi.
If Romney's goal was to look presidential and stay pretty much above the fray, he succeeded in spades. Romney went large. He painted in very broad strokes, outlining what would guide his foreign policy as President. He did not get into the weeds pointing out the almost infinite number of things that he could have raised in criticism of Obama foreign policy - and he even stayed away from Libya for the most part. In stark contrast, Obama was aggressive and angry, spending much of his time attacking Romney. He looked desperate. He tried to draw Romney into a brawl. Romney bobbed, weaved and took very few blows.
The contrast could not have been more stark. At one point early in the debate, Romney told Obama, "attacking me is not an agenda." You will see that one in some ads, I can assure you.
The one thing that Romney said that was utter music to my ears - there is much more to fighting Islamic terrorism than the military. To paraphrase, we need to engage in the "war of ideas." Nothing could be more true. Bush started down that road but then gave up. Obama has moved us backwards. The ramifications of losing - or even failing to engage in - the war of ideas are that our grandchildren's grandchildren will be fighting this scourge long after we are dead.
What had me screaming at the t.v. screen the loudest was Obama's rewrite of his history with Iran. It was just one falsehood after another.
There were a couple of Romney soliloquies that were stellar. I will post video and transcripts below as they become available. We will have to see how much traction they get.
Overall, I think that Romney's performance was what he needed to get him to the finish line ahead of Obama. He appeared rational, reasoned and even tempered. I think the moderates and undecideds will eat up his performance. This is another win for Romney I think.
Update: Frank Luntz's focus group highlighted that the economy was the major issue on everybody's mind. Good news for Obama - the majority thought that Obama was stronger on foreign policy. Bad news for Obama - virtually the same majority thought that Romney was the stronger on the economy tonight.
Update: Charles Krauthammer gives his analysis of the debate: