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

Progressive Humanist

October 22nd, 2012
11:03 pm

Nice way to spin a loss, Scrivener.

Scrivener

October 22nd, 2012
11:07 pm

Get back to me after the election, PH, if you’re not too depressed.

Progressive Humanist

October 22nd, 2012
11:07 pm

CBS snap poll:

53% thought Obama won
23% thought Romney won

Progressive Humanist

October 22nd, 2012
11:08 pm

Oh, I’ll get back to you, happily. You must not understand the electoral college.

RW-(the original)

October 22nd, 2012
11:08 pm

The only difference I have with Scrivener’s take is that I don’t think Obama looked p’d tonight, I thought he looked robotic and could never quite figure out when to throw in his talking points, but he was determined to blurt them out anyway.

JDW

October 22nd, 2012
11:10 pm

BTW, looks like Kyle’s baseball prognosticator is going to be 23 for 27…SF 8 to zip

Progressive Humanist

October 22nd, 2012
11:11 pm

Wishful thinking, rw, but that’s what I’d expect from the great obfuscator.

RW-(the original)

October 22nd, 2012
11:17 pm

“The Great Obfuscator” has a nice ring to it, but I think I’ll stick with my own handle.

Anyway, PH, I know this is beyond your ability to comprehend but I’ve only proffered my opinion so it really isn’t subject to your declaration. If you’d like me to make a declaration I will and you’re free to foolishly bat it down, but here goes. Romney will carry Georgia. Feel free to flail away.

hsn

October 22nd, 2012
11:18 pm

That line from Obama with “….Less bayonets and horses…” was classic and golden !!! :)

O 2012!

Rush

October 22nd, 2012
11:21 pm

That boy looked desperate tonight………..

jod

October 22nd, 2012
11:22 pm

Did obummer need to take a dumb, cause he looked strained all night.

Progressive Humanist

October 22nd, 2012
11:23 pm

You really went out on a limb there, rw. Okay, I’ll make a somewhat riskier prediction: Obama will take Ohio.

jod

October 22nd, 2012
11:23 pm

Rush

October 22nd, 2012
11:23 pm

But somehow we need “more teachers” in today’s technology based world, hsn? Guess those union teachers need to be able to sit on their…………and do nothing as usual.

Rush

October 22nd, 2012
11:24 pm

Lack of TOTUS has really impacted The One………..

jod

October 22nd, 2012
11:26 pm

Hmmm…. bayonets, pretty sure every soldier and marine has that standard issue. Maybe Obama doesn’t even know our own military …. just saying.

Babatunde

October 22nd, 2012
11:27 pm

SCHIEFFER: We know that Pakistan has arrested the doctor who helped us catch Obama (sic) bin Laden.

Hands down the best, and funniest, line of the evening!

RW-(the original)

October 22nd, 2012
11:34 pm

Obama will take Ohio.

Nice move, PH and I’ll go out on the limb extending from the other side of that tree. Romney carries Ohio, or Oiho as Obama spells it, and wins the Presidency.

Babatunds,

What he actually said was “Obama’s Bin Laden” which is almost funnier.

RW-(the original)

October 22nd, 2012
11:38 pm

What a tough call for the umps. 9 zip with 2 down in the ninth but it’s a freaking monsoon

Jod

October 22nd, 2012
11:38 pm

Lol… I heard that too rw.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

October 22nd, 2012
11:41 pm

U.S. Government’s Foreign Debt Now $47,495 Per Household

obozo has a point, why make war on your sugar daddy?

Progressive Humanist

October 22nd, 2012
11:46 pm

rw- Possible but unlikely. CBS/Quinnipiac has Obama up 5% in Ohio as of today and 60% of early voters there have voted Dem. I think tonight’s debate can only help Obama there. Now I think you need to get back to using your super secret decoder ring to investigate that scraggly UGA computer science sophomore who scared you, Andy, and Buy Danish into calling the FBI, oh back in 2005 was it?

jconservative

October 22nd, 2012
11:56 pm

OK. The Giants won so I guess we can start speculating who Obama will nominate as the next Sec of State. Will he keep Geithner at Treasury? What about Attorney General?

RW-(the original)

October 22nd, 2012
11:56 pm

CBS/Quinnipiac has Obama up 5%

Lucky for us SeeBS polls don’t actually count, but nice try.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

October 22nd, 2012
11:57 pm

CNN poll following the debate:

Who was more likeable: Obama 48%, Romney 47%

President Likeability took a hit tonight.

60% think Romney could be President.

24% changed their vote to Obama, 25% changed their vote to Romney. 50% didn’t change at all.

Doesn’t matter who “won” the debate. With numbers like these, there will be no momentum shift from this.

OldTimer

October 23rd, 2012
12:01 am

The Marines still use bayonets–but what do you expect from a someone that has never served in the military and unfortunately runs it. He is a self appointed King served by czars handling his heavy lifing work. Obama also messed up on the auto bailout .He was only interested in saving union votes with taxpayers money. Been around the block too long to be impressed by political carnival barker talk.

Dealmaker

October 23rd, 2012
12:02 am

Romney did not embarrass himself tonight with missteps on the facts like he did in the last debate. However, he disclosed a lack of expertise when he attempted to score points on the size of the Navy by claiming the number of ships was an indicator of military weakness. Obama correctly pointed out that the technological capability of the modern Navy was the strongest that it has ever been so that we didn’t need as many ships. Romney was attempting to link ship building to economic and jobs potential. Obama countered with rebuilding of domestic infrastructure as a much better application of our limited budget dollars. Obama out scored Romney on the savvy the Commander in Chief needs to effectively govern. Romney gave up most Conservative positions agreeing with the President on 90% of the President’s policies. Debate sore is Romney 1 Obama 2.

WowRUKiddingMe?

October 23rd, 2012
12:02 am

Wow, Kyle Wingnut, you lived up to your name tonight! Must get really dizzy, spinning so much, constantly, constantly, then having to spin around the other way.

I do have to give RMoney credit, though–he was at least smart enough to agree on many of Obama’s strategies, but he still wants to move American jobs overseas to Communist Chinese slave labor. Didn’t I hear he bought one of the Chi-Comm companies that had fences around it to keep workers in? Oh, yeah, he said it was to keep “eager workers” out!

The fact that you right-wingers continue to pervert the words of Jesus to enrich yourselves and screw over the very young, sick, old, and poor makes me sick.

Of course you and your Fox-programmed armies can attack me just for saying the obvious. As usual.

Those who do precisely the opposite of what Jesus taught can’t call themselves “Christians.” But I do recall a word that describes those with your mindset in the Bible… it’s somewhere in the back.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

October 23rd, 2012
12:04 am

It’s always funny to hear Obama tell us (and Romney) what Romney’s policies are, Old Timer.

Too bad Obama doesn’t actually know what they are.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

October 23rd, 2012
12:09 am

“Obama correctly pointed out that the technological capability of the modern Navy was the strongest that it has ever been so that we didn’t need as many ships. ”

Tell that to the Navy commanders. Doesn’t matter how technological they are if you don’t have enough to do the job, and the Navy is grumbling big-time.

WowRUKiddingMe?

October 23rd, 2012
12:11 am

http://blogs.ajc.com/kyle-wingfield/2012/10/22/chapter-3-live-thread-for-the-final-obama-romney-debate/?cp=3#comment-159297

“[w]hat do you expect from a someone that has never served in the military”?

You mean like RMoney, who went to France to spread his religion that Billy Graham, till a couple days ago labelled a cult?

Obama didn’t have a war to get into, and didn’t get exemptions, like Bush, JR, who kept the commies out of Texas, or Dick “Five Deferments/I-had-better-things-to-do” Cheney.

Say, Mittens’ wife says since their kids went around proselytizing for what was until very recently for Billy Graham, a “cult,” and that’s just the same as serving in a war. Is it? Those poor boys had doors slammed in their faces! Doors! SLAMMED! Surely that’s the same as seeing your kids come home in pieces, in body bags, or maybe just a blood-stained set of dog tags. Right?

Man, your world is so much easier than reality.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

October 23rd, 2012
12:11 am

“but he still wants to move American jobs overseas to Communist Chinese slave labor.”

Really? Cite the policy, Kidding.

“Didn’t I hear he bought one of the Chi-Comm companies that had fences around it to keep workers in?”

Only if you believe the DNC talking points memo.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

October 23rd, 2012
12:12 am

Looks like Gravy Stain is trying to make a comeback on here.

WowRUKiddingMe?

October 23rd, 2012
12:16 am

“Really? Cite the policy, Kidding.”

Policy? It’s not gubmint policy, but it’s what RMoney did while buying up American companies, bankrupting them, looting the pensions of American workers and sending their American jobs to China, which is still a communist country which employs slave labor. That’s a fact. Don’t even have to check one o’them evil librul “democrat party” sites. It’s public record.

Nite! Some of us have to work tomorrow.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

October 23rd, 2012
12:18 am

Good riddance, Stain.

bluecoat

October 23rd, 2012
1:43 am

Hang down you head TD hang down your head and cry.Tom Dooley (Dula)At least Romney did not have his cheat sheet with him,or in view.Oh I forgot,that was a magic hankerchief….It’s sad when 1/3 of post are from same person with different monikers.

bluecoat

October 23rd, 2012
1:45 am

handkerchief

Steve Johnson

October 23rd, 2012
5:03 am

The author must have been watching some other debate….because I have no idea how someone could walk away thinking the last two debates were a tie. Obama swept the floor with Romney, especially tonight. Romney showed he didn’t even pay attention in his geography classes in regards to water ways from Iran. Plus he has no concept of WHY we have fewer ships in our Navy. Not to mention, Romney has no clue of how to actually create jobs…because all Bain Capitol did was destroy jobs. Sorry man, you need to go back to journalism school and learn how to fact check and take notes while watching a debate.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

October 23rd, 2012
6:43 am

“Sorry man, you need to go back to journalism school and learn how to fact check”

You can’t make this stuff up.

“Romney has no clue of how to actually create jobs…because all Bain Capitol did was destroy jobs.”

Here’s a fact check, Steve Johnson: Bain Capital, under Mitt Romney’s leadership, created or maintained jobs in over 70% of the companies they invested in.

iggy

October 23rd, 2012
7:13 am

CO comes over to the Romney side….

cc

October 23rd, 2012
8:06 am

After reading the posts from last night, I have to wonder if there were actually TWO debates last night! The debate that I saw featured a very UN-presidential Obama dispensing snide remarks and attempting to insert ‘points’ at inappropriate times. My thought was that his verbiage and point-making ploys probably did NOT appeal to the undecided voters.

ktbl

October 23rd, 2012
8:06 am

If you have been following the two people in the ring for president, you will understand that Mitt don’t have any ideals as to what is important. He lives for the rich, downing the poor….of all races. He then comes back changing his stories one right after another….so if you sure you want him to be your leader vote for him and ryan and see where you end up. Yes, he will get the us in aother war his face and his words say’s he cannot be trusted. Where are we as a people siding with this person(s) and we are right back where we started because we have not gain anything for ourselves nor is any representatives or congressmen doing anything for us……..it is all about them and their famillies. the sad part is, our tax dolllars going overseas could be use for our homelessness, poor, starving citizens of these united states of america! That is why I am upset with the people who you all keep electing to serve as congressman. They need to look out for us! Excuse me if you think I am not honest.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

October 23rd, 2012
8:27 am

ktbl, sometimes you just have to refrain from drinking until after 5 pm.

iggy

October 23rd, 2012
8:33 am

“Excuse me if you think I am not honest.”

Nice summation.

MarkV

October 23rd, 2012
8:53 am

The best exchange of the evening? Romney’s foolish comparison of our Navy now and in 1917, and Obama’s response pointing out the capabilities of the modern military.

Deavastating.

Rafe Hollister, suffering through Oblamer's ineptocracy

October 23rd, 2012
8:54 am

I was somewhat disappointed in Romney’s gamble last night. He decided to play prevent defense, like the NFL coaches do most every game. I am not a big fan of the “prevent”. I think Romney passed up too many opportunities to point out the failures of this abysmal regime, for the purpose of appearing thoughtful, stable, Presidential, and not bellicose. He may have thrown the debate, in an effort to win over the undecideds and women. I think he thought that was the best way to win the election. I hope he made the right choice that winning the war was more important than winning the battle.

Rafe Hollister, suffering through Oblamer's ineptocracy

October 23rd, 2012
9:04 am

MarkV

I agree that Obama won this point, however, it was because Romney did not argue the issue. No matter how sophisticated your armaments are if there are not enough of them, then often you lose.

As the battle waged in Libya, I’m thinking, why is no help coming. Obviously we had no aircraft carrier in the Med, or we could have supplied some air cover against the assault and brought in troops from helicopters. Why no carrier in the Med, because the few we have are on patrol in other places, like the Persian Gulf. The number of aircraft carriers and ships have been greatly reduced over the last 20 years. Many of the light attack ships are now used in the drug wars as the Coast Guard is short.

If Romney gets some ex Navy guys to embellish the need for more ships and sailors in the next few days, he can blunt Obama’s advantage. But, as I pointed out above his strategy was to win over the women and undecideds, who probably don’t care one way or the other.

I demand to see Cheesy Grits Birth Certificate- Long Form Please

October 23rd, 2012
9:06 am

Multiple choice Mitt on full display last night.

He moved as hard as he could to the center.

For those saying Mitt was playing prevent.

Who plays prevent defense when you are tied ? ( Actually behind in Electoral College and behind in Ohio which you must win )

I demand to see Cheesy Grits Birth Certificate- Long Form Please

October 23rd, 2012
9:08 am

If Romney gets some ex Navy guys to embellish the need for more ships and sailors in the next few days, he can blunt Obama’s advantage.

The old swift boat strategy.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

October 23rd, 2012
9:09 am

“The best exchange of the evening? Romney’s comparison of our Navy now and in 1917, and Obama’s petulant and childish response pointing out the capabilities of the modern military.”

Embarrassing to Obama.

Fixed your typo, MarkV.