● Bob Schieffer: Schieffer did an excellent job and should be commended. His questions were thoughtful, fair and he allowed a solid debate.
● Romney Succeeds: Romney had one job last night and he did it. He needed to come across as someone you would trust as Commander in Chief. He did. He had much more knowledge than Obama on every single issue and clearly had thought through his solutions. He presented a solid vision, a plan to achieve that vision, and knowledge of the details of every single issue covered which helps you believe his plan will work. He passed the test.
● Obama Strategy Fail I: Obama had two jobs last night and he failed at both. Obama’s first job, the one he really needed to achieve, was to give people a reason to vote for him. He didn’t. All he did was repeat his five point plan that hasn’t excited anyone yet and he attacked Romney as wanting to help the rich. These arguments failed in the first two debates and merely repeating them here won’t change anything. He needed something more and he didn’t give it. Indeed, his strategy last night was surprisingly stupid and I think he lost the election last night by default.
FYI, Obama plan: (1) he wants to help manufacturers invest here with tax code changes, (2) he wants to make our education system the best in the work and he wants to retrain workers, (3) he wants us to “control energy” by investing in clean energy, (4) he wants to tax the rich so he can “invest” the money in R&D, and (5) he wants to hire teachers (later he added hiring veterans to build roads).
Then he accused Romney of wanting to help the rich, of wanting to add $7 trillion in debt through military spending and tax cuts (all of which has been debunked), and said Romney wants social policies from the 1950, economic policies from the 1920s, and foreign policy from the 1980s. None of this helped in the prior two debates, and it won’t help now. To the contrary, all this did was open the door to Romney to repeat his devastating attack on Obama’s record which I’ve written out several times already. (see Romney’s Theme). Romney also repeated that he wants to champion small business, which will help him with the Tea Party, and he talked about education reform, which will help him with women. He also pointed out that he balanced budgets in private business for 25 years, at the Olympics, and four years as governor... Obama has yet to balance a budget.
● Obama Strategy Fail II: Obama’s second job last night was to land a knockout blow on Romney. He never came close because the lines he used were horrible. They were petty and bully-like, and these detracted from an otherwise solid performance. Examples include:
● He condescended to Romney by trying to explain to him what an aircraft carrier is and what a submarine is.
● He described Romney’s foreign policy as Obama’s policies only “saying them louder.”
● He implied that the US jumped in on the side of the Arab Spring protestors right away, even though that’s false. But more importantly, he said this was his idea and he blurted out, “Me!” Kind of a Howard Dean moment there.
● He waved the bloody shirt of 9/11 by claiming that he brought “closure” to the son of someone who was killed on 9/11 – something the left (and Obama) savaged Bush for doing.
● Obama accused Romney of wanting to use military force as a first resort. This stupid attack, repeated throughout the night, let Romney demonstrate repeatedly that he is not reckless or bloodthirsty.
Obama lost the election on the above, the rest below is just details.● Obama Tactics Fail I: Obama’s biggest tactical mistake was using a shotgun approach on Romney. He attacked on too many issues and used too many details. Moreover, many of his attacks sounded like Obama was trying to pull quotes out of context, such as when he accused Romney of not seeing al Qaeda as a threat – no one will believe Romney said that. These fake attacks polluted all the rest of his attacks and made everything he said sound like a distortion.
● Obama Tactics Fail II: Another tactical failure was accusing Romney of being a reckless warmonger, but then simultaneously accusing Romney of advocating the exact same policy Obama is following. That doesn’t work.
● Key Moments: Here are the likely key moments:
● Romney neutered the bin Laden thing and bought himself serious credibility when he congratulated Obama on getting bin Laden and then said, “but we can’t kill our way out of this mess.” In echoes of my articles on the topic, he said we need a comprehensive strategy to get the Muslim world to reject extremism in their own ranks through promoting: (1) economic development, (2) better education, (3) rule of law, (4) gender equality, and (5) the creation of civil societies. This is brilliant because it stopped Obama from bragging and it highlighted that Obama has no plan – Obama later played “me too” and tried to claim this is what he’s already doing.● Obama Lies: At several points, Obama simply lied to hide his record. He claimed that he did support the Green Revolution in Iran, even though he remained silent for nine days. He claimed he did not propose $1 trillion in automatic spending cuts on the military, which is technically true but still a lie. Harry Reid proposed them and Obama demanded they be included in the budget deal. His claim to arm the Syrian rebels is a lie. He lied about not going to the UN on Syria. And he lied by claiming he had implemented non-existent policies to promote democracy overseas.
● Romney highlighted Obama’s failure to give a reason to vote FOR Obama by repeating, “Attacking me is not an agenda.”
● Obama said of Iran, “We cannot afford to have a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region in the world.” This is interesting because Paul Ryan said the same thing and Joe Biden called the claim ridiculous.
● Israel: A lot was said about Israel, but Romney had the key moment and Obama may have blown a key moment. When Schieffer asked how they would respond if Israel called and said their planes were on the way to bomb Iran, Romney jumped in and said they shouldn’t answer a hypothetical like that. He also said that his relationship with Israel’s Prime Minister was such that this would never happen. This made Romney appear statesmanlike if he already has solid relationships with our allies. Obama ducked the question.
Then Schieffer asked if they would guarantee that an attack on Israel was the same thing as an attack on the US. Obama sort of said it was, but seemed to hedge. It will be interesting to see how that plays out. Romney then suggested that Obama was talking about helping Israel only diplomatically.
● China: Obama made a huge mistake when he labeled China as our second biggest national security threat after terrorism (he forgot Iran) because China will not be amused. Our relationship with China is based on false facades of friendship, which both sides are careful never to violate. Obama did.
Romney then turned this against Obama by pointing out that China is an opportunity. He said (as I’ve suggested) that China could be made an ally because economic growth is vital to them as they need 20 million new jobs a year to maintain civil order. But we need to get our budget in order, we can’t cut our military, we must strengthen our commitment to our allies in the region (read: Taiwan), and we must go after China for unfair trade practices, currency manipulation, counterfeiting and stealing of intellectual property. Obama countered that Romney owned stock in Chinese companies. This was a mistake because whereas Romney gave a plan to fix the problem, Obama took a political cheap shot.
Romney also used China to talk about engaging Latin America in trade, which will help him with Hispanic business owners.
● Syria: Obama did a lot of doublespeak on Syria. He talked about taking the lead in “mobilizing the world, providing humanitarian aid and organizing the opposition.” As with Biden, he implied that we armed the opposition and then turned around and accused Romney of being a warmonger for trying to arm the opposition. The arms actually came from the Saudis, not us. And Obama asked the UN to take the lead. Romney also denied wanting to send any American troops or planes to fight, proving he’s no warmonger, which caused Obama to flip his strategy on its head and accuse Romney of proposing to do exactly what Obama is doing, only being reckless somehow.
● The Closings: The closings were interesting. Obama went negative. He blamed Bush for his problems and then accused Romney of wanting to help the rich before he repeated his five point plan. This was uninspired.
Romney’s closing was Reaganesque. First, he made two great points. He repeated Obama’s record and called it the President’s path. Obama said we shouldn’t go back to the policies of a decade ago, and Romney countered that we don’t want to relive the last four years. Then Romney made an appeal to bipartisanship, which will play well with independents. He noted that he worked with a legislature that was 87% Democratic in Massachusetts and he said he could work with good Democrats and good Republicans in Washington. Then he spoke about the greatest generation and how they have passed the torch and he described America as “the hope of the Earth.” Basically, he gave people a reason to support him. Obama didn’t. All of this is classic Reagan.
● Good Night For Price: Romney tracked my foreign policy discussions on issue after issue. This is very encouraging because it sounds like he’s looking for real solutions and he’s no Bush neocon.
● Conclusion: This was an odd debate in the sense that Obama didn’t really play to win. I’m wondering what he was thinking. Yes, he performed well, he was Romney’s equal most of the night, and he took some cheap shots that will thrill his ignorant base. . . but he played for the draw when he really needed a blow out. This makes me wonder if his campaign team just isn’t that bright or if he knows he’s lost and he’s look for future political opportunities. Whatever his plan, he failed to take the risks he needed to win the election.
I now expect the MSM to go into desperation mode to win the election for him. But the polls will show Romney climbing a couple percentage points more. At that point, the cracks will appear on the left and they will savage him for his bad campaign.