Chapter 3: Live thread for the final Obama-Romney debate

UPDATE at 10:40 p.m.: The candidates very much got back to foreign policy. If Romney’s goal was to present himself as knowledgeable and reasonable on foreign policy — i.e., not a war-monger — he achieved it. He has been much more conciliatory toward Obama than vice versa — he’s eschewed many opportunities to attack Obama, whereas Obama has been on the attack all night. Which suggests both candidates saw Romney as the front-runner coming into tonight’s debate.

If so, I saw nothing tonight to change that. Each candidate had some good moments, but neither truly drew blood. If Obama needed a win, I don’t think he got it tonight.

The pundits are talking about Obama winning on “debate points.” I don’t think that’s the way undecided voters view these things. They wanted to see, as in the first debate, if Romney was this wild-eyed extremist the Democrats have been painting him as. Obama didn’t sleep-walk through this debate by any means, but Romney achieved the same goal of coming across as reasonable and, this time, believable as a commander-in-chief. That’s all he needed tonight.

***

UPDATE at 9:41 p.m.: Both candidates are trying very hard to turn this into something other than a foreign-policy debate. Which probably makes political sense; only so many voters are going to pull the lever based on what they think will happen in Damascus. But given that Obama has managed no more than a tie from the first two debates, and is saying nothing new on domestic policy tonight, you have to wonder why he thinks this is a good strategy.

***

UPDATE at 9:28 p.m.: So far, Romney sounds as if the last words — maybe the only words — he heard before he went on stage were: “Don’t sound bellicose.” Which is smart, but he doesn’t have to sound bellicose to draw a clear line between his policies and priorities and Obama’s. And so far he isn’t doing that effectively.

For his part, the president has turned every question so far back to “nation-building at home.” He’s been saying that for years now. His problem is that his idea of nation-building at home isn’t necessarily what the people at home want. Obamacare? Dodd-Frank? Deficit spending for stimulus?

***

Tonight is President Obama’s last chance to beat Mitt Romney in a head-to-head debate — and, possibly, to grab hold of the prevailing narrative of this election as it enters its final two weeks.

To recap: Romney changed his fortunes in the first debate in Denver on Oct. 3. Within a week of his solid defeat of a listless Obama, Romney had gone from trailing by 3.1 percentage points in the Real Clear Politics average of national opinion polls to leading by 1.5 points. More important, he took control in swing states that traditionally back Republicans (e.g., Missouri and North Carolina) and put some typically Democratic-leaning states (think Michigan, Wisconsin and even Pennsylvania) into the toss-up category.

Last Tuesday’s debate on Long Island finished with many observers — including, naturally, all those Democrats who had been wringing their hands about the first debate — declaring Obama the winner. I took some heat from some of my regular commenters for predicting Obama wouldn’t get a boost from the debate. But sure enough, Romney is a slightly larger favorite in the RCP average six days later. And the most crucial swing states — particularly Ohio, but also New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada and perhaps even Wisconsin — remain within either man’s grasp. The race definitely is in “too close to call” territory.

But the first two debates were largely about domestic policy. Now we get a night all about foreign policy — at least until each candidate can segue to the domestic implications of any given topic — and that ought to be firmer ground for the current commander-in-chief than for his challenger. Will Obama be able to capitalize on that? Or will Romney be able to portray his presidency as one of missed opportunities and even missteps, particularly when it comes to the inflamed Middle East?

We shall see. Tune in here and on Twitter for real-time commentary, and look out tomorrow for a special post-debate discussion on AJC.com with yours truly and my colleague, Jay Bookman.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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195 comments Add your comment

MarkV

October 22nd, 2012
6:56 pm

The interesting question is, which of his many positions on any subject Gov. Romney will adopt in today’s debate.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

October 22nd, 2012
7:01 pm

Soledad O’Brien for Vice Pres in 2016!

Warren/O’Brian 2016!

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

October 22nd, 2012
7:02 pm

MarkV

Today is a new day! Romney has a whole new etch a sketch plan laid out.

cc

October 22nd, 2012
7:08 pm

. . . and when the smoke clears, Obama will have been erased forever from the etch-a-sketch. By this time next year, Obama will be a distant but unpleasant memory.

cc

October 22nd, 2012
7:15 pm

Two more interesting questions are:

(1) How many questions will Obama not answer tonight?

(2) How many lies will Obama tell tonight?

td

October 22nd, 2012
7:17 pm

MarkV

October 22nd, 2012
6:56 pm

The interesting question is, which of his many positions on any subject Gov. Romney will adopt in today’s debate.

You mean which lie will Obama tell tonight about Libya?

@@

October 22nd, 2012
7:18 pm

Foreign policy ought to be firmer ground for Obama?

You give him more credit than he deserves, Kyle.

From what I’ve seen, he’s delegated all foreign policy issues to anyone other than hisself.

MarkV

October 22nd, 2012
7:22 pm

td @7:17 pm
“You mean which lie will Obama tell tonight about Libya.

td, another liar, lying about Obama and Libya.

cc

October 22nd, 2012
7:31 pm

“From what I’ve seen, he’s delegated all foreign policy issues to anyone other than himself.”

Latest word has it that the White House chef has now assumed those responsibilities. The chef not only knows more about foreign affairs than Hillary, but is also capable of cooking.

Obama now considers foreign policy anything which occurs and is situated in the U. S. outside the ghettos of Chicago.

Scrivener

October 22nd, 2012
7:38 pm

MarkV, your devotion to this incompetent empty suit in the White House is duly noted.

MarkV

October 22nd, 2012
7:43 pm

Scrivener @ 7:38 pm: “MarkV, your devotion to this incompetent empty suit in the White House is duly noted.”

Scrivener, your inanity and non sequitur are duly noted.

Scrivener

October 22nd, 2012
7:51 pm

Non sequitur how? And “inanity” seems to your word du jour.

@@

October 22nd, 2012
7:55 pm

cc:

I can recall, during 2008, when Obama said this:

“I think it is going to be part of the president’s job to be able to deal with more than one thing at once.”

He’s been campaigning since his first day in office. It’s painfully obvious that he’s unable to campaign and run the country at the same time.

Georgia

October 22nd, 2012
7:58 pm

Obama’s only got an hour to invent more stinking lies.

Hillbilly D

October 22nd, 2012
7:59 pm

I’ll be watching the ballgame, y’all have fun arguing.

Raymond Tindell

October 22nd, 2012
8:04 pm

How many assists will Obama get from a loving supportive biased moderator????

cc

October 22nd, 2012
8:07 pm

@@, I believe that campaigning is ALL that Obama is capable of doing. Can you imagine how much worse off we would be if he actually focused on running the country considering his lack of knowledge as to how America works?

MarkV

October 22nd, 2012
8:07 pm

Scrivener @ 7:51 pm

“Inanity” is a perfect word for your comment.

Non sequitur – an argument in which its conclusion does not follow from its premises. When I call someone telling lies a liar, or remind of the many changes of Romney’s positions, it shows nothing about any devotion that could be “duly noted.”

MarkV

October 22nd, 2012
8:09 pm

Raymond Tindell @ 8:04 pm
“How many assists will Obama get from a loving supportive biased moderator????”

A good indicator of who lost a debate – complaints about the moderator.

Nick

October 22nd, 2012
8:12 pm

What time is the final debate between president Obama and Mitt Romney? thank’s.

Scrivener

October 22nd, 2012
8:13 pm

MarkV says: “Inanity” is a perfect word for your comment. Non sequitur – an argument in which its conclusion does not follow from its premises. When I call someone telling lies a liar, or remind of the many changes of Romney’s positions, it shows nothing about any devotion that could be “duly noted.”

And, Mark, that is a perfect example of why it’s pointless to argue with you. I’ve read your back-and-forths with people, and you frankly make no sense. You parse words ad infinitum and give them meanings that suit your purpose. Obfuscation is clearly your modus operandi, so instead of getting further entangled in your word games, I’ll just sit back and watch. Knock yourself out.

td

October 22nd, 2012
8:24 pm

I can see MarkV is all fired up to make Obama’s last stand tonight.

Nick

October 22nd, 2012
8:24 pm

I just noticed that will take place at 9 pm local time. and (0400 AM GMT) for people from Hellas.

iggy

October 22nd, 2012
8:28 pm

OBlunders time has come. Hopefully, this will be one of his last Hurrahs!!

Rafe Hollister, suffering through Oblamer's ineptocracy

October 22nd, 2012
8:35 pm

Speaking of Etch a Sketch, that would be Obama’s version of what happened in Benghazi. Everyday he shakes and bakes and we get a different story. Will he fess up tonight and straighten out all the story lines. Can he weave all those stories into one logical narrative? Doubtful.

iggy

October 22nd, 2012
8:43 pm

The Good, Romney, the Bad, Obama and the Ugly, Biden is on tonite…

cc

October 22nd, 2012
8:43 pm

Gone to watch the debate, and then off to bed! Good night to all my fellow conservatives . ..

nelson

October 22nd, 2012
8:47 pm

After the debate there will be a “data smog” of polls. The sheer volume of data being sent out into the cacophony of noise touting which polls telling everyone what the pollsters want to tell. Nothing but a fog of facts and figures. It is called the pollution of information. The Gallup is the only poll with a track record going back to 1938. The Poll has picked every winner of the presidency, with the exception of picking Dewey over Truman in 1948 and Ford over Carter in 1968. No other poll has that record over time. The Gallup Poll also makes its “raw data” available which others do not.
It gives Romney a 7 point lead among the voters.

Rafe Hollister, suffering through Oblamer's ineptocracy

October 22nd, 2012
8:49 pm

One is inexperienced, one is inept.
One makes promises, one makes excuses.
One makes accusations, one invents answers.
One is for strength, one is for comity.
One is for Israel, one is for impartiality.
One knows what terror is, one doesn’t like to talk about terror.
One wants to take on China, one is afraid of starting a trade war.
One knows the truth about Putin, one likes his reset switch.
One is sad about Embassy deaths, one thinks the deaths are not optimal.

iggy

October 22nd, 2012
8:54 pm

PMSNBC cant help themselves wrapping Romney in the “W” flag.

Desparate times call for desparate actions.

MarkV

October 22nd, 2012
8:56 pm

Scrivener @8:13 pm

Of course you will do that. Like some other moral cowards here, you just write an insult or accusation and then when you are challenged and unable to support it, you just bail out.

iggy

October 22nd, 2012
8:57 pm

Chris Mathews is attempting to channel Tip Oneil.

Lil' Barry Bailout - Vote American

October 22nd, 2012
8:59 pm

Benghazi.

What did Obozo know, when did he know it, and why did he and his regime lie to the American people for two weeks?

Osama is dead. Al Qaeda is alive.

iggy

October 22nd, 2012
9:12 pm

Romney needs to go on the offense….

Rose Barr

October 22nd, 2012
9:12 pm

“Go after the bad guys” … Really… Sounds like the foreign policy of a 4-yr-old.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

October 22nd, 2012
9:16 pm

watch the Obama beatdown

td

October 22nd, 2012
9:18 pm

We are going to community organize Syria and let the protesters go it on their own without weapons against tanks and aircraft.

cdub

October 22nd, 2012
9:23 pm

Romney can not Stop his flip flopping! He is going to be deafeted by Obama tonight. Obama is def. already winning

Old timer

October 22nd, 2012
9:26 pm

Ob….Muslim countries owe nothing to make things better to fit our picture of what should be done. They kill girls who want a education….it is not our vision.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

October 22nd, 2012
9:28 pm

The Kenyan, Muslim, Socialist is killin it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

anon1

October 22nd, 2012
9:32 pm

Romney is all over the map, stumbling. He really has no idea how to handle foreign policy. Heavy arms to Syria, but make sure they aren’t used against us or our allies. How?

anon1

October 22nd, 2012
9:33 pm

Policy for the future?? What is it Mitt?

ODD OWL

October 22nd, 2012
9:34 pm

Gov. Romney is rambling on incoherrently… Gov. Romney is totally ignorant of foreign policies… He’s a bloviating ignoramus…

anon1

October 22nd, 2012
9:35 pm

Just hit the teacher’s union. What is he thinking?

White

October 22nd, 2012
9:37 pm

Romney is so disrespectful Obama going win this thing

White

October 22nd, 2012
9:39 pm

Ok keep it real! Rep don’t like Obama cause of his skin not his policy!

anon1

October 22nd, 2012
9:39 pm

Romney will take us to war. somewhere, anywhere. “Come on a website and see how we will cut things”

ODD OWL

October 22nd, 2012
9:39 pm

The Governor is getting a good education in civic class by professor Obama… But Romney don’t want to listen… Apparently he has ADHD,,,

anon1

October 22nd, 2012
9:40 pm

Georgia running Medicare?? Are you kidding.

Old timer

October 22nd, 2012
9:40 pm

Obqma is the most disrespectful debate opponent I have ever seen….