The tensest moment of tonight’s debate unfolded when Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney laced into President Obama for allegedly apologizing for the United States’ “dismissive and derisive” tone to other countries.
Obama, heatedly, labeled the “apology tour” argument a “whopper,” retorting, “Nothing Gov. Romney just said is true.” And he slipped in a dagger the likes of which delight Democrats: “While we were coordinating an international coalition … you were still invested in a Chinese state oil company that was doing business with the Iranian oil sector.”
While not the near-donnybrook that last week’s town hall was, the animosity between the two was fully on display yet again.
Romney was pained at times by past statements – his devaluation in advance of the killing of Osama bin Laden, for instance – and strongest when he laid out for voters the various hot spots around the world, painting them as worse off than they were four years ago. That argument dovetails powerfully with the lurking sense among Americans suffering in a flagging economy that the country is backpedaling, rather than advancing.
Both candidates betrayed where their respective campaigns think the election will be won. Ostensibly on foreign policy, much of the debate dwelled on domestic issues; discussions of state-level education and Medicaid policies cropped up, and exchanges on China felt aimed directly at blue-collar voters in Ohio car factories. As ever, this campaign again came up shy of delivering what it told voters it would.
-- Jim O’Sullivan
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRESIDENTIAL RACE REPORT
Analysis: Obama Wins Third Debate but Romney Wins Debate Season
[National Journal, 10/22/12] Ron Fournier writes that Obama edged Romney in the third debate, though not in a way that will significantly influence the race. But Romney has successfully used debate season to present himself as a viable alternative to the president, and for that he comes out of it stronger than he was going in.
Debate Fact Check
[National Journal, 10/22/12] Obama denied he tried to reach an agreement with Iraq to leave more forces there, but his Pentagon did try to reach such an agreement. Romney, meanwhile, did tell Fox News that Obama should have left thousands of troops in the country.
Obama, Romney Debate U.S. Role in Libya, Syria
[CBC, 10/22/12] Romney said the promise of progress in the Middle East was slipping away, and emphasized the importance of programs that would undermine Islamic extremism in the region. On Syria, there were few sharp differences between the two candidates’ positions.
Romney Starts Duel on ‘Apology Tour’
[Politico, 10/22/12] At the debate, Romney said that Obama’s overseas “apology tour” at the beginning of his term showed weakness to America’s enemies, undermining American foreign policy. Obama called the assertion that Obama apologized for the U.S. “the biggest whopper that's been told.”
Obama, Romney Battle on Foreign Policy in Last Debate
[Reuters, 10/22/12] Obama again made a more lively showing than in the first debate, saying Romney’s shifting foreign policy positions made him unfit to be commander-in-chief. Romney struck a more moderate tone than he had earlier in the campaign.
Candidates Clash Over Handling of International Incidents
[Financial Times, 10/22/12] Romney was slow out of the gate, but became more forceful as the debate wore on, tying national security to the health of the U.S. economy.
Why Obama is Relying More on the Rust Belt than the Sun Belt
[National Journal, 10/22/12] Contrary to what many observers expected when the race began, the Rust Belt states are more receptive to Obama’s attacks on Romney’s business experience, while the Sun Belt states are more responsive to Romney’s portrayal of Obama as a big-spending government liberal. NJ’s Ronald Brownstein explains the economic circumstances surrounding the shift.
State Polls Show Edge for Obama in Electoral College
[New York Times, 10/22/12] The Times’s Nate Silver writes that while nationally Obama doesn’t seem to have gotten much of a bounce from his second debate performance last week, the president still maintains a slight lead in several crucial battleground state polls taken after the debate.
Determining Romney’s Official Stance on Abortion
[Washington Post, 10/22/12] The Post’s fact checkers try to get to the bottom of competing claims on Romney’s evolving stance on abortion and award "Three Pinocchios" to a new Obama ad on the issue.
The Voter-Fraud Myth
[New Yorker, 10/21/12] A lengthy profile by Jane Mayer of Hans von Spakovsky, a conservative lawyer behind much of the GOP’s recent efforts at instituting voter I.D. laws.
Around the World, Perceptions of Obama-Romney Contest Lag Reality
[Washington Post, 10/21/12] From Europe to China to the Middle East, perceptions of the contest have lagged behind indications that the two men are in a virtual dead heat. Obama remains widely popular abroad, and there are signs that many leaders are unprepared for a Romney presidency.
First Weekend of Early Voting Favors Obama in Battleground Nevada
[National Journal, 10/22/12] Democrats across the country are pushing their supporters to lock in their votes as early as possible. And after two days of early voting in the battleground state of Nevada, Democrats boast that figures released by county elections officials show they hold a significant lead.
Pennsylvania: Last-Minute Game-Changer?
[Wall Street Journal, 10/21/12] While polls show the race tightening in several states that previously had dropped off the list of battlegrounds, Pennsylvania is an intriguing possibility for a late-in-the-game investment.
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