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.



the financial mess is partly from things which were NOT in the budgets they agreed to - LIKE THE WARS??? The China debt is because that's how he was financing the war. Geesh!! Do you think because it isn't in the budget it doesn't count?


Speaking of the wars- did we/USA ever get reimbursed with oil as Dick Cheney promised ?

the office cat

Aw poor Mike. How often must you be enlightened that the wars - and the China loans - were not IN the budgets until THIS president insisted they had to be included? If you remove the wars - and No Child Left Behind and Medicare Advantage - we probably even have a surplus. But we had to pay for those SOMETIME.

the office cat

Okay Mikel... here come the factcheckers. BUSH and the REPUBLICAN CONGRESS ran up the China debt to pay for unfunded wars that didn't have to be in the budget because they were military and weren't collecting taxes.
The huge China debt is our legacy from Iraq, pre-Obama Afghanistan, No Child Left Behind...kind of a 'charge it forward' mentality for those children and grandchildren you mention somewhere ad nauseum. Presently we have pay-as-you-go. Now, Teapublicans once yelled that's how it should be. Now it IS that way and you don't like it. Of course we're also paying the charge-it-forward bills. Why don't YOU check and see - and enlighten us - on how much 'in toto' has been borrowed from China and by whom?


nice work Cat

John Harville

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




Always the victim, Never the bride. you can always tell a Obama voter by how much they whine.

the office cat

tell us please... what is a 'blind bastian'?


Get a job.


@ John Harville:

Mr. Obama's dope smokin' high school buddies were known as the "Choom Gang."

They were his "Choomies."

The Big Dog's back

Maybe you should try some smoke winnie. Might chill you out.


How about George Bush's drug usage?

the office cat

Wondered too. So, calling the president a weed-smoker is okay, too?

the office cat

...but he was only QUOTING other people whose posts you left on.


Obama has presided over the slowest economic recovery in the history of the republic. In a very real sense, there has been no recovery at all.

But don’t bother discussing matters like economic or foreign affairs with most Democrats. All most Democrat voters care about, is that Obama was on the "View", late night tv and honey-boo-boo endorsed him. smh




Methinks John Harville needs some cheese with his whines. Why is the DNC borrowing money?

the office cat

AT least he uses his real name. If the DNC is borrowing money, it's probably because they don't have non-voting no-birth-certificate peoplecorporations pouring in trillions to buy the election.

Mr. Romney has the five qualifications he needs to be President...digits with which to hold the pen to sign Norquist's tax cuts.


Fact check:

Pres. Obama wrong on Iraq "status of force agreement":

As the foreign policy "expert," Mr. Obama continues to take credit for an an agreement forged under Pres. Bush.

Mr. Obama is crashing on Intrade.


Republicans borrow, Dems pay.
That's why Repubs hate taxes.


@ 4shizzle:

So Dems like paying taxes?

It's been estimated, that the U.S. would need to increase taxes by 35% on EVERYONE and reduce spending by an equal amount just to begin to put a dent in the Fed. debt.

Sound good to you?


It's not about "liking".
It's about being financially responsible.
Repubs always leave the USA in a financial mess.


"It's about being financially responsible." So lets all elect the same guy who has spent more in 4 years than any president ever. Do you even know what being finacially responsible is?


The elephant symbolizing the Republican Party is correct.
After an elephant goes through, it takes a long time to clean up after it.
The Repubs left a big debt for Obama to clean up.
If you think Romney and Ryan are the better choice-- seriously, you need help.


Look at the Democrat spending spree of 2007-2010 and beyond, By 2020 we will be at 20 trillion in debt. I personally think the two party system has everyone thinking this is the end all beat all of choices. At 9 tonight watch the other debate online and you will see some enteresting fixes for our fiscal problems.

The Big Dog's back

Sure it does winnie. Why should we pass the mess the Repubs made on the next generation?


People go on and on about what Romney tells Republicans he believes in (while campaigning)..but they fail to note that these are things which he claims he would sign IF they were placed in front of him, assuming Congress will ever (in the foreseeable future) be able to place those actions within his reach.

These same demagogues fail to note that he seems to be pretty bipartisan in his record as governor. Compare that to the modern day civil war that Obama seems to be brewing up.

the office cat

1. ...his record as governor. Izzat why one of his 'home'* states has him down by big double digits?
*His other 'home' being Utah where the major newspaper endorsed the non-Mormon.
2. ..things he would sign... "On the first day..."? He's going to singlehandely repeal Obamacare...
3. He 'fully believes in" a woman's right to contraception and 'some' abortion would outlaw ALL abortion and declare life begins at conception.


I thought Mr. Romney sounded like a parrot.