Debate reverses roles

Republican Mitt Romney is acting like a challenger who feels he has enough momentum and time to overtake the president by Election Day, two weeks from now. Judging from Monday's final debate,
Associated Press
Oct 23, 2012


President Barack Obama almost seems to agree.

Obama was clearly the more aggressive combatant in the 90-minute forum, whacking Romney's personal investment record, truthfulness and overseas fundraising. Romney, meantime, went out of his way to blunt his differences with the president on several key foreign policy matters — supposedly the debate's focus — and to appear calm, moderate and non-threatening.

Romney's approach was one typically taken by front-runners: First, do no harm. Don't stir the pot. Keep the clock running.

Obama's forcefulness appeared chiefly aimed at discouraged Democrats who might not bother voting, rather than at the sliver of undecided voters in the handful of states still in play. Romney is not the benign, acceptable alternative he claims to be, Obama seemed to be saying, and I, your president, am finally willing to fight tooth and nail for a second term after sleepwalking through the first debate, which triggered Romney's rise in the polls.

"It's all get-out-the-vote now," said Matt Bennett, a veteran of Democratic campaigns. "If you're undecided now, you ain't voting."

"Obama will win the debate on points," Bennett said, "but it won't matter much."

A number of other Democrats shared that view. Interest in the third and final debate probably suffered, they said, from voter fatigue, competition from televised football and baseball games, and the official topic — foreign policy — in a campaign dominated by jobs and the economy.

These Democrats, however, don't necessarily think Obama will lose. Some feel Romney took a big gamble by being so tame in the final face-to-face encounter.

Obama still holds a slight edge in Ohio in most independent polls. It's the state that can almost seal the president's re-election if he holds it, because it would force Romney to sweep virtually every other contested state, including tough Wisconsin.

Romney's stay-the-course demeanor Monday points to confidence that his slight rise in the polls will continue, even if only a smidgen of voters are truly undecided. Democrats note that many thousands of people are already voting through early balloting programs in key states.

The election's outcome may turn on whether Obama's get-out-the-vote ground troops can outrun Romney's momentum. Polls show Romney doing considerably better among likely voters, as opposed to registered voters. That gives Obama's volunteers a chance to hunt down thousands of "soft supporters," and persuade them to get to a polling place.

From the debate's opening minutes, Romney showed no appetite for verbal fisticuffs. Moderator Bob Schieffer invited the former Massachusetts governor to critique Obama's handling of the fatal attack on a U.S. Consulate in Libya, a topic Romney had fumbled in the second debate, six days ago.

Romney showed no interest. Instead, he congratulated the president on the killing of Osama bin Laden, hoping to negate an Obama strong point as quickly as possible.

Throughout the evening, Romney continued a recent trend of moderating his foreign policy positions. He seemed bent on presenting himself as a sound commander in chief, even if it required him to narrow his differences with the president.

Romney offered unusual praise for Obama's war efforts in Afghanistan, declaring the 2010 surge of 33,000 U.S. troops a success and asserting that efforts to train Afghan security forces are on track to enable the U.S. and its allies to put the Afghans fully in charge of security by the end of 2014.

Romney said U.S. forces should complete their withdrawal on that schedule. Previously he has criticized the setting of a specific withdrawal date.

And on Iran, Romney mollified his previous criticism of Obama's sanctions policy. He stressed that resorting to war to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon would be a last option, softening the hawkish tone that had been a hallmark of his campaign.

Longtime GOP strategist Terry Holt defended Romney's soft touch.

"His first goal is to appear presidential," Holt said. "This is not a grand jury where all he has to do is indict. People are looking to him for presidential qualities. Cool, calm and clear."

Obama, by contrast, looked for every chance to criticize Romney on as many topics as possible.

"Governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s," Obama said.

He chided Romney for having said Russia was America's greatest geopolitical foe. "The Cold War's been over for 20 years," Obama said.

"Presidents always have an advantage when debating foreign policy," said Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak. "Romney did well enough tonight to maintain his momentum and win this race."

Obama has 14 days to stop that momentum. He plunges in immediately Tuesday with events in Delray Beach, Fla., and Dayton, Ohio. On Wednesday and Thursday the president plans to campaign in Iowa, Colorado, California, Nevada, Florida, Virginia and Ohio.

Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, on Tuesday were headed to Nevada and Colorado. Romney planned to campaign Wednesday in Nevada and Iowa, and Thursday and Friday in Ohio.

Neither ticket can afford to write off the other competitive states. But Ohio seems destined to be the testing ground of whether Obama's tiny lead and big ground operation can hold off Romney's October momentum.



Sad story! I feel.for her! My heart goes out to her and her family! And she is one of.many that need the assistance and should get it! She has to support her babies! And I do shop at good will. best place ever! Love that store! that's how I myself make ends meet. Clothes are expensive along with everything else in this world. unfortunately lol but yes my heart and prayers go out to Jane and her children.and yes sorry the response to I was in the wrong place :/


The only thing I am sure Romney believes is that he wants to be president.

John Harville

... and in President Obama. Rmoney did all but crawl into Obama's coat pocket and go home with him last night. He praised him on Osama, endorsed leaving Iraq in 2014, agreed with the President's plan to keep US troops out of Syria and the removal of its president, agreed with helping to form the 'correct' Syrian government.... Where WAS the Republican candidate?

Romney agrees "Vote for Obama"!


JH writes:

"He praised him on Osama, endorsed leaving Iraq in 2014,"

Leave Iraq in '14? What "debate" were you watching?

John Harville

Ah. you caught my typo. But you knew what I meant.

So. Thanks. I get to post it again. Romney agreed with leaving Afghanistan in 2014 - even though previously he had called setting a date a major foreign policy mistake.

And still he complimented the President on binLaden even though at the time he said we should have asked Pakistan for 'permission' and given them time to warn Osama.

Oh oh oh! And another one I didn't mention. ROMNEY gave full-out approval to using Drone strikes.

Thanks, Con!!


@ John Harville:

So I shouldn't believe that you write what you mean? :)

Drone strikes? It's getting ready to blow up on the Choomie in the WH; too many innocents are getting killed by the Nobel Prize winner's policies.


Romney DID give approval to drone strikes.


@ 4shizzle:

That's why you'll vote for "Obamney."


Eddi Munster wants to stay and Mitty Baby wants to leave.
These guys dont have it together and they want to lead us? WOW!

The New World Czar

Give credit to Romney for cutting off the loaded question by Bob Schieffer about getting the phone call with attacking planes in the air.

This in the end will come down to the economy.

John Harville

The economy? I hope so. Unemployment dropped in 41 states - including our all important state (7%) - in September and mid-October non-adjusted national unemployment projection is 7.3% for the November 2 report.

Obama got ground game in Ohio - which must be why so many Obama signs are being stolen while other signs remain in Democrat yards.


@ JH:

Fed. Chairman Bernanke said at Jackson Hole in Aug. that Fed policy is responsible for 2 million jobs.

Mr. Obama has little to "crow" about on the jobs front.

John Harville

and Bernanke serves under Romney? Oops... typo... Bernanke serves under Obama and those 2 million jobs were added during the OBAMA administration.
...and mid-October projections of unemployment (not seasonally adjusted) to be reported November 2 are 7.3% - just in time for those three days of early voting that Husted fought soooo hard to stop. And all the experts - including you - say that a good November 2 report will determine the election for... well, I don't want to hurt your eyes.


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Profane, obscene, sexual or derogatory language.


Mr. Obama got the "Three AM Call" with the Benghazi terrorist attack. He let it go to voicemail 'cause he was busy campaigning.

John Harville

WOW. What kind of probe do you use to pull these things out? zat why you're always smilin'?


Is it really fair to play the Monday morning quarterback when you have no first hand knowledge about the game?


@ deertracker:

Speaking of football; the current coach has been whining about the last coach for four years. Time to fire him.

Security shoulda been beefed up for the anniv. of 9.11. Why wasn't it?

Why still no declaration of "terrorist attack" from this WH?



In the VP debate, Mr. Biden said that Iran is far from having a delivery system.

"Fat Man" and "Little Boy" are 1940s technology and the info. for their construction is public knowledge.

John Harville

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights) and Remarks advocating illegal or violent actions.


@ John Harville:

Show me where the WH used the term "terrorist attack" or mentioned al-Qaeda.

"Go count your gold and leave the serious stuff to the people with the intelligence to handle it."

Guess that leaves you out huh?


or we can just blame it on a movie right johnny boy.

John Harville

Mikel... thanks for putting my 'removed' comment back in by replying to it. C'mon Sarah... take it out again.

John Harville

How do you know security wasn't beefed up? Just because there was a 'hit'? Actually the Ambassador was taken into a 'safe room' in the embassy - but it wasn't safe from the 'firewash' the terrorists used. Now Moderator... is that better? Contango... did you complain?


@ John Harville:

So what's the "official" WH position on Benghazi 6 weeks later???

Guess it depends on the day.


Good ole deer poacher stating that things get worse when cons are in power! The fallacy is that true cons haven't appeared since the 2010 midterms, remember those elections and the pollling data preceeding them?
Romney by a landslide!!!!

John Harville

Romney under a landslide!!!!


Mr. Obama made himself look small by interrupting Mr. Romney and smirking during the topic of the Detroit auto bailout.

Remember: GM and Chrysler DID go bankrupt.

Read Mr. Romney's op-ed piece from '08:


VP Biden trusts the CIA and other Intel to know when Iran has nuke capabilty, but they were asleep at the switch on 9.11.12?

IMO, if Mr. Obama were a "leader" heads would roll regarding the Benghazi and 9.11.12 Intel failure.

John Harville

GM and Chrysler went bankrupt. And none of the commercial moneysources were willing to help them cuz they were busy going bust. The cure involved management employees losing part/all or readjusting their pensions - getting some of what has happened to the rank and file over the years. Isn't that the same method Kasich used to 'balance' Ohio's budget? OH, not quite. In Kasich's model public entities took the hit and now schools, hospitals, municipal police and fire depts, EMS are scrambling to find security while kids, patients and citizens suffer.

What if Romney had been president, implemented his plan, and nobody came forth with the money?


@ John Harville:

There were buyers in the wings.

Chrysler was sold to Fiat for one.

Mr. Romney mentioned "bridge loans," read the article and learn something.

John Harville

REad it... in '08. Would not have worked then and doesn't work now.