Who was the president and who was the challenger?
You could not tell from the third and final debate of the presidential debate series.
Former Gov. Mitt Romney looked like the president facing the upstart challenger. President Barack Obama was on the attack, but Romney refused to take the bait. The president tried to turn the debate into two small-town mayors arguing, but Romney wisely avoided that confrontation.
There were some fireworks, but based on the polling data, Romney’s strategy was correct. I would have liked Romney to attack the president on Libya and the loss of four Americans, including our ambassador, and I am not alone. The president was very vulnerable on a number of issues in that scenario, but Romney let that slide. Instead, he displayed his knowledge of places on the globe that are danger points. His references to the resurgence of al-Qaeda in various parts of the world conflicted with the president’s assertion that al-Qaeda was on the run.
Romney brought the conversation back to the economy and its effect on foreign relations. He pointed out how the president had let our influence in the world decrease and adroitly tied that to our failing economy.
Romney brought up our weakened military and the sequestration issue. The president blamed that on Congress failing to mention that he signed that bill. The presidential minions in the spin room were forced to “walk back” the presidential assertion that sequestration would be repealed. The spinners for the president changed his wording to “would like to repeal” sequestration.
Give the devil his due: the best lines of the debate were Obama’s. He told the governor that the military had changed we now have these big ships on which planes can land and big boats that can go underwater. Chris Rock could not have delivered those lines any better. But comedy won’t be enough because Romney won the debate on style points. The president won the comedy award, which is not enough to retain the presidency.
Obama debated as though he sees the writing on the wall. That writing says, “Get your children enrolled for fall in a Chicago school and start packing.”