Analysts, Students React to Final Presidential Debate
In the final debate of the presidential campaign on Oct. 22, President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney argued about several foreign policy issues, including Iran’s nuclear capabilities, the Afghanistan war and China’s growing eminence in the global economy, and in times of deviance from the debate format, they continued the fight over ideological differences regarding domestic issues.
The debate, moderated by CBS News journalist Bob Schieffer, took place at Lynn University in Florida.
According to The New York Times and CBS News, Romney moved towards more moderate positions regarding foreign policy issues.
This, according to political analysts, has been his past debate tactic to appeal to independent and undecided voters.
Many newscasters declared Obama the unofficial “winner” of the debate because of his aggressive debating style, said an Oct. 23 Times article.
Students agreed with that claim, stating that Romney’s proposals lacked unique appeal.
“[Obama] seemed more in command. Romney didn’t really propose any different policies; he just agreed with what Obama said,” said College sophomore Nikita Shrinath.
The outcome of the debate, however, unlikely changed many voter’s minds, an Oct. 23 CBS News article said.
While Obama may have displayed a stronger performance, the victory fell short of what would have been required to shift the polls into giving him a clear margin.
Romney avoided damage on a topic he was perceived to be weaker on, asserting the continuation of the close margin between the two candidates.
“In general, voters care less about foreign policy than domestic policy, and debates rarely move the polls much, the first debate being an exception,” said Professor of Political Science Kyle Beardsley in an email to the Wheel. “So a foreign policy debate is not likely to matter much in determining the winner of the election.”
Romney attacked Obama’s foreign policy initiatives, including a nonexistent Israel and Palestine peace agreement, Iran’s nuclear bomb capability and al-Qaeda’s continuing eminence in the Middle East.
Romney’s justification for denouncing Obama’s foreign policy moves as president was that Obama had failed to accomplish anything concrete, especially in regards to a Palestine/Israel written peace agreement.
Additionally, he claimed that Iran was no further away from a nuclear bomb and that al-Qaeda’s presence was still significant in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, according to the Oct. 23 Times article, Obama mocked Romney’s “lack” of foreign policy experience by accusing the governor of being unable to differentiate between different weapons and deeming Romney’s foreign policy strategy as “all over the map.”
The candidates disputed at length the structure and growth of different facets of the military, particularly the Navy, during the debate.
When Romney complained that the Navy was the smallest it had ever been under Obama’s administration, Obama aggressively attacked Romney’s statements regarding weapons and portrayed him as outdated and ignorant, according to the Times article.
“We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them,” Obama said. “We have these ships that go under water, nuclear submarines, and so the question is not a game of Battleship where we are counting ships.”
However, the candidates seemed to agree on a variety of issues, despite the seemingly hostile tone of the debate.
Both Romney and Obama agreed on withdrawal from the war in Afghanistan, the usage of drones to capture and kill terrorists and the dangers of intervening in the Syrian conflict.
The Times article has attributed this “agreement” to Romney’s slide towards the center on the political scale; by staying neutral and not taking extreme stands, he will maintain a better chance of appealing to independent voters.
The debate often coalesced into reoccurring verbal sparring between Romney and Obama regarding differences in their specific economic recovery platforms, including an accusation by Romney that Obama devalued the U.S. influence around the world because of his “failure to deal with our economic challenges at home.”
The change from foreign back to domestic policy may have had to do with Obama’s perceived advantage in foreign policy, the Oct. 23 CBS News article said.
Because voters see Obama as a stronger commander in chief, Romney may have attempted to steer the debate away from foreign policy and more towards domestic policy, particularly economics, to refocus attention on his strengths and differences from Obama.
— Anusha Ravi