Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Final debate

One thing we know about televised debates, from the Kennedy/Nixon debates in 1960, to the series of debates in this campaign, is that most of the content doesn't seem to matter. That is frustrating to supporters of the candidate who gives the most coherent and articulate responses, which in last night's debate was clearly President Obama. Mitt Romney just repeated campaign talking points without seeming to know what he was talking about, and without any kind of strategic foreign policy vision. Surprisingly often, Romney basically agreed with the president's policies in a number of important areas.

But in the all-important battle of tone and facial expression, President Obama projected a focus and intensity that I've rarely seen before. And he was ready to pounce on any opportunity Romney gave him to attack. Romney's face, when he was listening to the president speaking, often seemed pained. Either Romney secretly thinks he has some plan to win the election, and he doesn't think this debate matters very much. Or Romney knows he is beaten, especially when it comes to foreign policy, and he is just going through the motions.

It's a shame most voters don't realize how much foreign policy matters. It's the most important task of the president, the one area over which he has primary control. Voters understandably focus on pocketbook issues when they vote for president, but the president only has a limited amount of control over those problems. In foreign policy, however, our choice of a presidential candidate may mean the difference between war or peace. We should have learned that lesson after the 2000 election. Foreign policy is just as important now as it was then. And we have a president who is a master of foreign policy, facing an amateur who doesn't seem to have thought about these issues much at all. It's downright dangerous to think that choice doesn't matter all that much.  


  1. I agree with you on the importance of foreign policy.

    The President won the third debate on substance. But I think he broke even politically. His debate performance doesn’t appear to have changed momentum.

    Neither the far left or far right are responsible for the shift of likely voters toward Romney. It is women; centrist women who are responsible for the shift. They are not as highly concerned with foreign policy.

    These women either work and run household budgets or work at running household budgets and raising kids full time. They are not swayed by a ‘war on women’ (it may even push them away). The war they fight is on their pocketbook.

    They are focused on the economy, their homes, their jobs, their kids, their balance sheet, the cost of food and gas and utilities. They are responsible for the shift toward Romney. They are not ideologues. They voted in 2008 for the President.

  2. What shift toward Romney? There was a tightening in the polls a couple of weeks ago, which erased a big gain for Obama after the conventions, but in the last week or so, the shift has been in favor of the president.

  3. "In Florida, Romney went from behind by two points on Oct. 3 to ahead by 1.8 points on Wednesday in the Real Clear Politics poll of polls.

    In Ohio, Romney went from down 5.5 points on Oct. 3 to down 1.7 points on Wednesday.

    And in Virginia, Romney trailed Obama by 3.5 points on Oct. 3 and, as of Wednesday, the two candidates were deadlocked.

    Viewed broadly — and with a recognition that a poll of polls is not perfect science — it appears that Romney gained roughly 3.5 points in each of that trio of states over the past 20 days."

    1. Old news. October 3, which is the baseline date in the quote you are using, was more than 3 weeks ago. What I said was that there was a tightening in the polls a couple of weeks ago, but in the last week or so the shift has been in favor of the president. That is only beginning to be reported in the polls, which as you know lag behind current opinion by a few days. Obama is up in nearly all the tracking polls reported yesterday.

      Nerdier analysis here:


  4. That must be why Romney has pulled three points ahead of Obama in Nerw Hampshire for the firt time this year.


    And is up to a five point lead among likely voters:


    Maybe polls are not all the same. You must have the good ones!

    1. Polls are not all the same. You are citing Gallup and Rasmussen, both of which are known to skew a bit toward the Republicans. You have to look at a range of polls to get a better picture. But probably we're both paying too much attention to the polls. It can drive you crazy, no matter which side you're on. I think the only thing that is important to know is that it's a close election, so that should motivate everyone to get out and vote!

    2. Yes, I imagine we will see over 60% turnout. Wouldn't it be nice if we saw 90%? How the heck is 60% considered high!

  5. Thanks for sharing this. Interesting stuff!

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