Quick Thoughts on the Debate So Far

A few quick thoughts on the debate so far:

  • Obama is definitely leveraging his incumbency.  “I know that you’re not in a position to actually put your foreign policy into practice, but…”  “One thing I’ve learned as Commander in Chief is…”  This will come across as condescending and arrogant to people on the Right — but that’s largely because those on the Right assume that he is arrogant and condescending from the start.  The Left will cheer it.  The question is: How does this come across to Independents?  Obama cannot seriously move the needle unless he makes Romney come across as amateurish, erratic and untrustworthy.
  • “Attacking me is not an agenda.”  Great line from Romney – serving, as I suggested in my post earlier today, to turn the endless attacks against Obama.
  • “We should be playing the leadership role.”  Romney makes this case, but Obama gives a response that will convince the uninformed.  Romney needs to invoke “leading from behind” more explicitly, since people will remember it.
  • Obama is great at the tough talk that conceals the weaknesses of his foreign policy.  This is why Romney needs, as I explained earlier, to allude to America enemies’ endorsements of Obama.  They would not endorse Obama if they thought Obama gave the stronger America on the national stage.
  • Obama wants to make the argument that his policy has been the right one.  This argument founders on the shores of reality.  Romney needs to make the point: “If Obama’s foreign policy has been so wise and so effective, then why would the Middle East be disintegrating before our own eyes?  In 2008, Barack Obama promised a “reset” in American relations, promised that the world would love us more if we elected him.  Yet still we see areas of the world exploding with anti-American sentiment.  It’s a good thing that George Bush is no longer President, because then the Arab world would still hate us.”
  • “Nowhere in the world is America’s influence today greater than it was four years ago.”  Great line from Romney.  Obama’s plaintive assertion that America is stronger today than it was four years ago is not convincing.  “Our alliances have never been stronger,” says Obama, but anyone who’s been paying attention knows that’s not true.  Romney is wise to refer to missile defense and our failure to stand on our principles there and with the Green Revolution.
  • So far, I don’t see either candidate scoring fatal blows — which equals a win for Romney.  Obama needs to score points here, and so far Romney is showing presidential strength and competency.  He’s also drawing a powerful connection between economic strength and foreign policy strength.  So far, Romney is looking good.  If he can prove to Independents that he is trustworthy on foreign policy, then he’s on a strong trajectory to win the presidency.

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  • C Blair

    Since when is the only way to judge true strength by “missile defense”?

  • matt

    Well, CBS had it 53-23 Obama so I’m not sure that this does equal a win for Romney. Nice try though.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      For one thing, I was commenting about a quarter of the way into the debate. But for another, I thought Romney won the PR battle. Judged as a debate in the abstract, Obama had the more cutting comments. I wouldn’t say that he won so much as it was a draw. But judged on whether it increases or decreases the likelihood of a vote, we’ll have to see whether the polls move. I don’t think they’ll change much, but we may see a continued slight drift in Romney’s direction.

      There’s not much use in debating something we cannot yet know, of course, and that will be shown in a matter of days. So…we shall see.

      • matt

        It would be pretty easy to argue that last night Romney more or less repudiated every stance he has taken on foreign policy in the last 8 years or so. My question is whether people will realize that or simply accept that the moderate they saw last night is the real person. While I think that Obama dominated Romney embarrassingly, I am not sure what effect this will have on the election.

      • Nate Sauve

        I think I read somewhere that when you call a debate a draw it means it really is a loss. O.o That said, I do think that this debate had the least at stake being that republicans are pro military and portray a stronger front to the rest of the world. Obama tried to demonstrate that he’s that tough on terror too. So he’s working against the public perception. His work tonight may have some sway with undecided independents for whom security is an important, but secondary issue (If it was the primary issue you would assume they are staunch Republicans.) That just doesn’t seem like a large group to me. We will see.