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.