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October 23, 2012 / Political Fluency

Event #5 Review – Reasonable Romney

I

With the two candidates physically sitting and the tertiary topic of foreign policy for the entire 90 minutes, we didn’t see any of the fireworks we saw in the other debates over the economy. Since Obama continued a lot of George W. Bush’s foreign policy, both men share a lot of the same opinions on military strategy such as the timetables exiting Iraq and Afghanistan.

Romney and his campaign have done an excellent job this month of prosecuting the case against Obama’s four years in office. However, the Romney campaign has only done a good job of explaining a vision of what the next 4 years would look like under a President Romney. He took his few chances to do this last night including in his closing statement and by repeatedly stating his 5 point plan for America to: become energy independent, have more favorable trade policies, better educate and train workers, reduce the size of government and its debt, and champion small business.

One of the chances he missed was to elaborate point 1 on becoming energy independent with an emphasis on the Keystone Pipeline that we would share with Canada. Another chance he missed was to also get off the mechanical script of just listing point 2 by emphasizing specific countries besides China that we would have better trade with.

Add in that Romney described the Middle East as being in “tumult” 5 times – including twice in one answer – all makes me feel like Obama won on points again.

II

It’s very easy to get caught up in politics and root for your side at the expense of observing what is actually going on with the undecided electorate. This happened with Democrats who were rightfully enthused about Obama’s second debate performance when he beat Mitt Romney, but neglected to realize that Romney’s answer explaining how he was different than George W. Bush may have made him the decisive favorite to win the election.

Having followed politics since 1992, I have tried my best to not let my conservative instincts override my objectivity in analyzing the Greatest Show on Earth. Unfortunately that didn’t happen when I thought for sure that Romney would attack Obama on the assassination of our ambassador in Libya. It was something I looked forward to in order for Romney to make up for his worst moment in the debates that coincided with Obama’s best moment with an assist from Candy Crowley. It just felt like the drama of the past month was leading up to a segue of the second debate into the third debate to begin with more arguments over Libya and this time, Romney would be ready with at least the timeline and a zinger or two to get Obama rattled in the very beginning.

Instead, Romney did the smart thing and didn’t get into the Libya controversy. While watching last night, I thought he flailed during his answer and missed an opportunity to attack Obama on a recent vulnerability. It soon became obvious that Romney wanted to just look reasonable and even agreeable to increase voters comfort level with him.  Foreign policy is very low on the voter’s priority list and hammering the President on the Benghazi attack may have come across as too aggressive when Romney has already been aggressive in the previous two debates and needed to look calm in this debate.

He had to back off of the Alpha Male routine that he got carried away with in the second debate like when he asked the President a question directly on Libya and they went all the way with this strategy. Romney had potential landmines by seeming hawkish about Syria and Iran. He could very easily have made a gaffe that made it seem like he is a NeoCon that wants to start another war when this country is totally fatigued with war.

As a result, Romney backed off to begin the debate. He is a momentum candidate. You saw it when he got excited right after picking Paul Ryan as his running mate, when he went all out in the first debate, and when he found his footing in the second and third debates after a few minutes. Looking back, it would’ve been a mistake to start out in attack mode and risk being in Alpha mode later on leading to a misstep.

Here’s an elaboration by one of the most politically fluent guys around, Keith Koffler.

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