President Obama came out aggressively. His objectives appeared to be to portray Mr. Romney as unfit to be commander-in-chief in that he would be more likely to get us entangled in a conflict and, in general, that he was inexperienced in foreign affairs. On the other hand, Mr. Romney’s objective appeared to be to appear calm, reasonable and in control. He did not attack as much as Mr. Obama. Mr. Romney did, however, succeed in demonstrating a strong knowledge of foreign affairs. Furthermore, I believe he was able to re-assure voters that he is qualified to be commander-in-chief and would not draw us into conflicts unnecessarily. Once again, however, Mr. Romney missed a chance to attack Mr. Obama on his administration’s handling of the Libya attack. In my opinion, that was a mistake.
In my opinion, Mr. Obama won the debate narrowly, but Mr. Romney achieved his objectives. According to a CNN poll taken shortly after the debate 48% of debate-watchers thought Mr. Obama won and 40% thought Mr. Romney won. Of course, the crucial question is to what extent, if any, this result will affect the actual voting. We will get some sense of this later in the week.
Keep in mind, historically debate results normally don’t translate into votes on Election Day. In addition, the central issues of the campaign are still the economy, jobs, the high debt, and the philosophical distinction between free enterprise and self-reliance versus Western Europe-style socialism. Once the voters saw tonight that Mr. Romney could be trusted as commander-in-chief and would not be a dangerous “war mongerer,” I expect that those issues will carry more weight in most voters decision-making.