Mitt Romney looked relaxed and confident heading into the Presidential debate on foreign policy, the last debate of the 2012 Presidential Election. And well he should have! With the Gallup poll putting him 9 points ahead of President Barack Obama two weeks out from the elections, and having never been wrong before when a candidate had that big a lead this close to Election Day, Romney was the most confident he's been so far.
He also came off knowledgeable and concerned. I appreciate that Obama has overseen some significant change in the Middle East but didn't agree entirely with his assessments. The fact is the Middle East is highly unstable and we do need to get in front of the issues there. The Arab Spring has unfolded. And while it initially appeared that despots across the region who promote, fund, or look the other way when it comes to terrorism would topple and Democratic governments would emerge, the realty has been a little messier than that. Assad is still in power in Syria and Iran could have a nuclear bomb by this spring.
I'm not sure that this debate will have a big impact on the polls. Only 10 percent of voters in battleground states put foreign policy as a higher concern than the economy and the deficit.
Each candidate did well last night. They both had good energy and were in the game. And each of them did a good job of tying foreign policy concerns back to domestic issues. The truth is they agree, in many respects, on the solutions to many of our current problems abroad. Neither one is advocating war. Each is in favor of using influence and credibility and economic sanctions to contain the nuclear threat in Iran and N. Korea.
Obama has a slight advantage on foreign affairs in that he gets to point to events that unfolded while he was in charge like the assassination of Osama Bin Laden and the withdrawal from Iraq. But as Mitt Romney's foreign policy advisor said before the debate, as former CEO, Romney is excellent at managing complex organizations and issues. That's what he does. And in fact, he does poll higher than Obama when the question is phrased, "Who do you trust more to make wise decisions?"
Americans have a big decision two weeks from now and at the end of the day, I believe the economy will be the deciding factor. But we should not be naive about the danger that exists in the Middle East.
I think we can all agree that Bob Schieffer "won" for being the best moderator so far! I love that he wore purple socks, because a lot of voters consider themselves "purple" or "maroon" this time around -- not necessarily "blue" or "red." It's the color of the Moderates who will make or break this election.
Image via Adam Glanzman/Flickr