Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Last Presidential Debate Recap

So who won the final debate?  The CNN poll calls the final debate in Obama's favor: 48% Obama, 40% Romney.  The CBS poll shows an even greater victory for President Obama with 53% of viewers saying that Obama won the debate while only 23% (a whole 30 points less) thought Romney won the debate.  These same polls showed that Romney won the first debate hands down but that Obama won the second debate last week in New York.  In other words, Romney won the first debate and Obama came back and won the next two debates in a row.  So the debate tally appears to be Romney: 1, Obama: 2.

Stepping back and looking at the final debate from 30,000 feet, Governor Romney did not seem to be interested in actually winning the foreign policy debate -- indeed, he often seemed woefully outmatched on the subject by the sitting commander-in-chief -- but instead he seemed interested only in establishing the fact that he, too, could someday be commander-in-chief.  To that end, Romney's strategy appeared to focus on simply not making any major gaffes that might upset the perception that Romney could also be commander-in-chief (he even went so far as to agree with the President several times throughout the evening).  And because he was primarily focused on not committing a major error, as opposed to actually making an effort to win the debate, he left a window of opportunity for the President to exploit.

And exploit he did.

Within the first few minutes of the debate, President Obama drew a clear line in the sand by reminding Americans that Romney, as a former governor of a state and as a businessman, has "not been in a position to actually execute foreign policy."  That was strike one.  (Note: when Obama chastised Romney with this statement, Romney nervously looked down at his paper for an extended period of time and did not bring his eyes up to meet the President much in the same manner that Obama nervously looked down during their first debate).

Strike two came when President Obama reminded everybody that Romney said that America should "not move Heaven and Earth" just to get Osama bin Laden and that we should have asked for permission from Pakistan -- which we would not have received -- before going in to get bin Laden.  This is, of course, in stark contrast with Obama who both as a candidate in 2008 and again as a President in 2011 took the position that if bin Laden is residing within Pakistan's boarders, and we have intelligence on where he is, then we will take him out.  The President also made it a point to note that Romney had once listed Russia -- and not Al Qaeda -- as our greatest foreign threat.

Striker three involved perhaps the most memorable exchange of the evening:

Romney: Our navy is smaller now than anytime since 1917.  The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission.  We're now down to 285.  We're headed down to the low 200's if we go through with sequestration.  That's unacceptable to me.  I wanna make sure we have the ships that are required by our Navy.
Obama: I think Governor Romney maybe hasn't spent enough time looking at how our military works.  You mention the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916.  Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military has changed.  We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them.  We have these ships that go under water - nuclear submarines.  And so the question is not a game of Battleship where we're counting ships, it's what are our capabilities.    

Obama drops the mic.

ETA:  Of course, we would be remiss if we didn't discuss the impact that this debate and others will have on the election.  One gets the sense that if there were 3 more debates, Obama would likely edge out Romney in each of them.  However, due to the Romney's superb performance in the first debate -- and Obama's noticeably poor performance -- many Americans got a "first impression" of Romney which undid half a year's worth of negative campaign adds run by the by Obama Administration which attempted (successfully I might add) to define Romney as the out of touch millionaire who likes to fire people, thinks 47% of Americans are lazy, and will ship your job overseas to make a quick buck.  After the first debate, all of that changed.  If Obama goes on to lose the election, people will be talking about the legacy of that first debate for years to come.  That was the moment when Romney undoubtedly turned the momentum of the election around for his campaign and enjoyed two full weeks of positive news coverage before the President had a chance to re-engage him again for their second debate.

However, as we have reported time and time again, "it's the Electoral Map, stupid." The Electoral College path to 270 does not favor a win for Mitt Romney.  Assuming that historic Red States stay Red and that historic Blue States stay Blue, of the remaining "battleground states" Mitt could literally win Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, and New Hampshire and still only get 267 electoral votes.  Obama, by contrast would only need Ohio and Iowa to hit 271.  This is a fact that is not lost on either campaign as they both ramp up their efforts in the key battleground states over the next 2 weeks.  But with only 2 weeks to go, the question is whether the first debate bump -- which has now been tampered by 2 consecutive debate losses for Governor Romney -- is enough to erase Obama's leads in not just one or two battleground states, but damn near all of them.    

While it's not impossible, statistically speaking it is highly unlikely.

Your thoughts on the final debate and on all 3 debates in general?
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