Mitt Romney AWOL in Foreign Policy Debate
In the final presidential debate Monday night,
Romney defenders and Obama supporters alike offered the only plausible explanation: The Romney camp decided to concentrate on presenting its candidate as "presidential," to neutralize Obama's strong suit and keep the campaign's main focus on the state of the economy.
If so, the strategy was a major Romney gamble, because it left him looking thoroughly outclassed as a potential commander-in-chief, which is the main qualification for being president. If Obama was knocked off his game, it seemed only in his surprise that Romney was turning from the slugger of their first two debates to a pussycat in the third before his own eyes.
As for Obama, had Monday night's version of the president put in an appearance in the first debate, he would arguably have had the 2012 campaign in the bag by now, instead of the near dead heat the polls indicate.
Most startling were Romney's cave-ins on accepting Obama's 2014 withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops from
In all these matters, Romney seemed focused on assuring voters that he did not pose a danger of getting
Strategically, all this may appeal to undecided independent voters without unduly disturbing the hawkish conservatives whom Romney bent himself like a pretzel to accommodate throughout the Republican primaries. In this sense, the third debate was the latest example of his morphing back to the moderate Mitt of his
At the same time, the reappearance of the alert, aggressive Obama in the second and especially the third debate should energize the spirits of his faithful and fire up his campaign's vaunted and well-oiled ground game, particularly in swing states such as
Intentionally or not, Romney's decision to pull his punches after his marked aggressiveness in the first two debates could convey the sense that his strategists believe that now that the foreign-policy encounter is behind him, he can make it across the finish line first. Or that, finally out of the spotlight of the debates watched by 60 million or more viewers, he can profitably revert to the attacking Mitt on the campaign trail.
In any event, the homestretch of the 2012 campaign should now rightly pivot back to the central issue that has dominated from the start: the state of the economy, and whether Obama's stay-the-course chipping away will yet prevail or be bested by Romney's unspecific roadmap to speedy recovery over the next four years.
After Obama's dismal start in the first debate, he has relentlessly sought to punch holes in Romney's plan for more tax cutting and higher defense spending while achieving sharp deficit reduction. But the president has yet to offer much explanation of how in a second term he would be more effective than in the first at righting the economy.
After all the smoke and mirrors of this television-advertising dominated campaign, the race seems to be coming down to which nominee is more credible, both personally and in his ability to deliver on the economy, the surviving central issue. And so the bombardment of the rival approaches in the revived "class warfare" of 2012 will go on until
In the end, Romney's gamble to pull his punches in the final debate may rival Obama's failure to engage sufficiently in the first one as the most memorable mystery of this campaign.
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Mitt Romney AWOL in Foreign Policy Debate | Politics
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