Over the course of three presidential debates, Republican nominee Mitt Romney succeeded in defying Democratic attacks—and overcoming his own past missteps—that had threatened to disqualify him as a reasonable choice for voters weary of President Obama.
Portrayed for weeks as a warmonger, Romney in the debates showed stronger interest in diplomacy and using military action only as a last resort. He was fluent and gaffe-free.
Yet in Monday night's face-off on foreign policy, Obama was the more frequent and strident aggressor, racking up twice as many points as his opponent. After weeks of hammering Obama over his response to the terrorist attack in Libya that killed four Americans, Romney never threw a punch in that direction. What’s more, he found himself agreeing with the president and praising his record more than he probably would have liked.
So where does that leave the race? Probably looking more than ever like a coin toss with a smidge of advantage for the sitting president.
Momentum is far more important than television ads at this stage, but without a brutal knockdown or embarrassing misstep, the impact of the third debate is likely to fade as the election hinges on which campaign can get more of its supporters to the polls.
Widespread disappointment amid a sluggish economy remains Romney’s strongest weapon against the president. But it was not often at his disposal in a debate on foreign policy that allowed the president to highlight some of his biggest successes.
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRESIDENTIAL RACE REPORT
Obama, Romney Pumped for Dash to the Finish
[AP, 10/23/12] In Florida today, Obama framed the choice between himself and Romney as one of “trust,” as his campaign released a pamphlet outlining his second-term agenda. Meanwhile, Romney and running mate Paul Ryan are in Nevada before heading to a rally with Kid Rock in Colorado.
Foreign-Policy Debate Was All About Ohio--and So Is the Campaign
[National Journal, 10/23/12] NJ’s Major Garrett writes that two topics that emerged in the final debate--trade with China and the auto bailout--will be fodder in the key battleground of Ohio. Obama advisers believe they have the advantage in the Buckeye State, which The New York Times's Nate Silver writes has a 50-50 chance of deciding the election.
Analysis: The Map[EllisBlog, 10/23/12] John Ellis, George W. Bush’s cousin and a former Fox News voting data analyst, writes that Romney could win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College. His map calls Colorado, Virginia, and Florida for Romney, leaving Nevada, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, and New Hampshire as toss-ups.
Ryan to Deliver Speech on Helping Middle Class
[AP, 10/23/12] Paul Ryan is planning to outline his ticket’s plan for low-income Americans in a speech at Cleveland State University in Ohio Wednesday. He’ll sell the Republican plan as one that will provide a stronger safety net and give parents more control over their children’s education.
Bogus Voter Letters Discovered in Multiple Florida Counties
[WMFE Radio, 10/23/12] Fake letters telling Florida voters they are ineligible to vote have now turned up in 15 counties in the state. The letters mostly target Republicans.
Obama, Romney: No Major Differences in Foreign-Policy Debate
[National Journal, 10/23/12] In making a vague and restrained case for a stronger America that would steer clear of military involvement in hot spots like Iran and Syria, NJ’s Michael Hirsh writes that Romney rendered almost moot any serious differences he might have with Obama over foreign policy.
Horses, Bayonets, and Boredom: The Debate on Twitter
[USA Today, 10/23/12] “Zzzzz” was a theme in many tweets, as were declarations of abandoning the debate--which overall was the topic of 6.5 million tweets, fewer than those of the first two debates or the VP face-off--for the NFL game between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears.
After Debate, Close Race Will Come Down to Turnout
[Tampa Bay Times, 10/23/12] The Times’ Adam C. Smith writes that with the debates now over and the trajectory of the race as murky as ever, to a large extent the election is out of the candidates’ hands. Barring a last-minute surprise, the final two weeks are about a feverish effort by both sides to mobilize supporters.
Romney Shifts to Center, Avoiding Hawkish Tone
[New York Times, 10/23/12] In a combative 90-minute debate, Romney avoided the more bellicose tone he often struck during the GOP primary. As in the last two debates, Romney shifted toward the middle, often agreeing with Obama on policy, even as the president tried to tie him to George W. Bush.
Romney Stumbles on Foreign Policy
[National Review, 10/23/12] Conservative Daniel Pipes writes that Romney missed several opportunities to score hits on Obama on Monday night, including on Libya, which came as a surprise to many on the right, among others. Meanwhile, Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol thinks Romney all but clinched it.
Opinion: Romney Says He’s Winning—It’s a Bluff
[New York Magazine, 10/23/12] Jonathan Chait argues that the Romney camp is carefully attempting to project an atmosphere of momentum, in the hopes of winning positive media coverage and, thus, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Factcheck.org: False Claims in the Final Debate
[FactCheck, 10/23/12] The editors at FactCheck.org write that the candidates took turns contradicting each other and twisting the facts during Monday night’s final debate. From Romney’s attack on Obama’s “apology” tour, to Obama’s claims on how many troops each man said should be left in Iraq, FactCheck has the analysis.
Romney and Iran’s ‘Route to the Sea’
[Washington Post, 10/23/12] When Romney made the geographically odd assertion that Syria was “Iran’s route to the sea,” it wasn’t the first time. The Fact-Checker tries to get to the bottom of the matter.
5 Takeaways: Obama Drives Debate, but Romney Clears Commander Bar
[National Journal, 10/23/12] Monday night’s final encounter between Obama and Romney followed the same predictable pattern as most foreign-policy debates. But NJ’s Ron Brownstein writes that an evening that was more seminar than slugfest did produce some takeaways.
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