Final Thoughts: I thought this went well, and Romney did what he needed to do. Some of the activists are wondering why Romney didn’t hit Benghazi harder, but it’s clear that was a calculated decision. (I probably would have hit Libya harder, but I wonder if they have some focus group data that suggested that wasn’t resonating.) Again, the audience here are the late undecideds who aren’t happy with Obama (or they wouldn’t be undecided), but want to make sure Romney isn’t some crazy, loose canon warmonger. He did that, and did it very well. He looked reasonable, strong without being overly brash, well informed, and competent. Obama did nothing to reverse the momentum here, and said a few things that I think will really hurt him. (He does know our largest Navy base is in swing state Virginia, right?)
As a successful business guy, Romney is necessarily very good at FIRST asking the question, “What does it mean to win?” Pundits and activists want to count blows and “points” and other such nonsense. Undecided voters want a gut feel that the guy they’re voting for is going to take care of business so they can quit paying attention to politics for awhile.
Obama was playing for the pundits (and even they are conceding that Romney “passed the Commander-in-Chief Test”), Romney for the voters. If the polls after the last debates are any indication – and I think they will be – the momentum remains with Romney.
My cautious optimism is growing…
Read the full recap here!
7:33: I thought the body language of the closing arguments was very, very telling. Obama did this two handed thing that made him look like he was begging. Romney, on the other hand, sat straight and steady, in a way that made it VERY easy to picture him giving a speech in the oval office. That, and Romney’s was a closing argument, much more so than Obama’s.
7:27: The crowd collapses at Romney’s nice jab at the President’s promises versus his results. Back to jobs, which is what people care about.
7:22: It’s probably because I can’t see at this point, or hear as well because of the room I’m in, but I feel like this debate is ending with a whimper all around. It’s very wonky at this point, without major drama or gaffes, and without any soundbite moments, with the possible exception of Romney hitting Obama on the Apology tour.
7:19: Currency manipulation! Important, but I bet another million just switched over to baseball.
7:17: Romney clarifying how government promotes job growth, as opposed to directly creating jobs. I think Romney is a little too rosy about China’s intentions, though. To me, I’m actually more scared of a Chinese economic collapse (I think they’re in their own economic bubble) than a robust Chinese economy.
7:14: I had to switch rooms for an outlet, so I missed the last few minutes, and can’t see any more. But enough to hear China platitudes from POTUS. Is Obama really bragging about how we SUE China? Do we really think they’re afraid of our lawyers?
7:12: Romney likes drones too – but will he bring up executive kill lists? And goes back to economic development.
7:11: Romney has clearly done his homework on the geo-political mess that is Pakistan, and lays out a great argument for how and why we should continue to engage them.
7:08: Get out of Afgahnistan and create jobs and infrastructure. Again, I’m all for hiring vets, but don’t we have a lot of out-of-work people here who could be doing the building Obama proposes now? Oh, yeah – we blew our wad on Obamacare and Solyndras instead.
7:07: “We were bogged down in Iraq when I took office.” This is an outrageous lie – it was Bush’s surge that turned things around, and allowed us to leave with a stable (more or less) country behind. It’s too Obama’s credit that he followed Bush’s blueprint to the end, but it’s to his shame that he can’t admit this. What a small, small man.
7:06: Romney reminds folks that Pakistan has nukes, and that makes things tougher. He should tie this in to the same – worse – problems we’ll face if Iran gets a nuke.
7:04: Afghanistan. What if they can’t handle this? A very good question. Let’s be honest here – no one has a good answer to this.
7:03: I remember when the left complained about Presidential candidates trying to dig too much emotional pull out of 9/11…
7:02: As a trial lawyer, if you’re going to impeach someone based on past statements, it’s helpful to have those actual statements at your disposal, Mr. President. He’s vague, and obviously vague in most areas. And “PAHK-ee-stan”!
7:01: “I don’t see our influennce growing around the world,” in no small part due to our economic weakness. This is great stuff.
6:59: What if they call to tell you bombers are on their way? Romney correctly demolishes the foolishness of this entire premise.
6:58: “I went to museums, so I care.” And now Obama starts bring out the practiced, “How dare you” outrage.
6:56: Iran is at its weakest point in years? “Four years closer to a nuclear Iran.” Yes. “And by the way, you skipped Israel. And they noticed.” And now Romney is quoting the President back at him. Awesome.
6:55: “Nothing Romney said is true.” Except it’s all on video, Mr. President. All of it. And if the sanctions against Iran were “effective,” those centrifuges wouldn’t be spinning.
6:54: “Apology tour”. And back to the Green Revolution in Iran. Daylight between us and Israel. Great, great stuff. And “spinning centrifuges” now in operation. VEry effective here.
6:51: I agree that a lot of times two candidates share positions on foreign policy. But the question then is who can do it more effectively. Obama is not inspiring confidence here, with his constant reference back to “bringing people together” as if that, in and of itself, is a final goal.
6:50: I like Romney’s bulletized arguments. I think they’re very effective, this one in particular. And it’s something I don’t think a lot of people have heard.
6:48: The outlet I’m plugged into has no juice, and I’m stuck in the crowd. If the feed ends abruptly, fair warning.
6:47: Does anyone think Iran takes Obama seriously when he says he’ll prevent Iran from getting a nuke?
6:46: Some of my Navy friends are expressing a lot of outrage on Facebook. This will really resonate, I think (and hope).
6:44: Romney talks about sea power more than any other President or Presidential candidate I’ve ever heard. I love it, not just out of Navy love, but because it’s a huge strategic force multiplier. ANd WOW – Obama’s answer comparing ships to horses is just ignorant beyond all belief. Does he really think a forward deployed Navy is obsolete? Because that’s pretty much what he just said. What a fool – read some frickin’ history, for crying out loud. Start with Mahan.
6:43: “I’ve balanced budgets, Obama hasn’t.” And I think this is why a lot of late deciders will ulitmately pull the lever for Romney.
6:41: Does Obama really think we can roll our military spending back to French levels, and keep America safe? Does he think we should SHRINK to get on par with China? The “France” bit from the President got a guffaw from the room. It’s bad when they’re angry with you, Mr. President, it’s far, far worse when they’re laughing at you.
6:40: Obama is really clueless about Romney’s tax proposals.
6:39: This crowd likes repealing Obamacare and giving money back to the states. And good for him for tying that in to military budgets.
6:38: Obama interrupts on education, and looks desperate. And I suspect the Governor is correct on his facts here. Excellent.
6:35: I love that this debate has just fully shifted to jobs. Does Obama really think this helps him? I have to think that at this point, the only people not watching football or baseball who might still be undecided are actually pretty concerned about foreign policy. I’m happy to talk about the economy in this election, but this seems so far afield as to be an attempted diversion. And Schiefer helps by bringing it back. Romney stepped on himself here – he should have taken the softball, I think, although his answer here is a good one.
6:34: ROmney goes domestic himself. I hope he mentions that Obama’s foreign policy involves more Solyndras. (Green energy? Really, Mr. President? THAT’S your foreign policy?)
6:33: Obama on cutting spending. HAHAHAHAHA!!!! And launches into a domestic stump speech, which is odd and disconnected. Then he hits Bush and Cheney, which is just weak.
6:32: The crowd here laughed and groaned when Obama said we’re stronger now as a nation than we were four years ago. Again – does ANYONE actually believe this?
6:31: Hitting Israel, Poland – calls the deterioration of those relationships “unfortunate.” #understatement And he hits the Green Revolution in Iran, which the President Ignored. Awesome.
6:29: Romney gets a second chance to talk about broader vision, which he already did. Good. I think Romney is doing a great job with his “Peace through (Economic) Strength” argument.
6:28: “We must be strong to promote principles of peace.” Including economically strong – excellent. The crowd here actually applauded.
6:25: Majority rule in Egypt does NOT equal “democracy” as we understand it. THere are no protections there for women or religious minorities, and Obama’s failure to help counterwieights to the Muslim Brotherhood has helped ensure this. Obama is shamefully out-to-lunch on this. Romney: “I wish we’d had a better vision for the FUTURE.” EXACTLY.
6:23: The difference between what Obama is saying and Romney is saying is that Romney might actually have the competence to, you know, actually get that done.
6:22: “Would you go beyond what the President will do?” “No military in Syria, arm the friendly locals.” Obama talks about engaging the friendlies, but everywhere he’s had the chance to do this, he’s failed. I wish Romney would hit that fact harder and more often.
6:21: “We HAVE led – we ‘organized’ ‘Friends of Syria.'”. Oh, good lord – this is self-parody!
6:20: Again, Romney is talking about “what comes next” after Assad is no more. Again, very smart.
6:19: “Syria is an opportunity.” And he taks about the importance of Syria to Iran in terms of support and geography (sea power). THis is an incredibly smart analysis that I haven’t thought of in this way, and it’s a great argument for the importance of Syria I hadn’t really considered before. Very nice answer.
6:16: “Mr. President, you said Assad had to go a year ago, and he’s still there.” Wow – I think Schiefer just called Obama feckless. Obama’s response is not helpful to him – “But we got together a bunch of people to write a nasty letter to Assad!” Talk about projecting weakness.
6:15: Does ANYONE believe Obama on Israel at this point? So far, though, Obama is doing more to bring the debate back to the domestic evconomy than Romney, which I think Romney should also do more.
6:14: Obama foreign policy: “Let me be clear.” Ugh. I LOVE that Romney brought up Obama’s off-mic comment to Medvedev about greater “flexibility.” This crowd went wild.
6:13: Romney is now owning the PResident. “Oh – you didn’t WANT a SOFA?” Nice.
6:12: “Every time you’ve had an opinion on foreign policy, you’ve been wrong.” Please. Imagine what a world with an in-tact Baathist Iraq would look like today…
6:11: “The 80s are asking for their foreign policy back.” Funny, but is Obama really this ignorant of Russia’s role in propping up Iran?
6:10: “We don’t want another Iraq.” Again, smart way to distance himself from people who don;t like Obama, but fear a “nothing but war” Bush stereotype.
6:08: Obama is taking credit for single handedly “winning” in Libya. THis shoudl frighten everyone – remember just how unilaterally that was done. And now the power vacuum is being filled by Jihadists while Obama blames Youtube videos.
6:07: “We’ve been safe the last four years.” I remember four years ago when this same man sneered at that as an argument, because attacking bad guys just made more of them… The crod here is unimpressed with Obama right now, not surprisingly
6:06: Congratulating Obama on killing OBL right away is smart – takes the power out of that. “We can’t kill out way out of this,” which is true, but it doesn’t hurt…
6:05: Romney is smart to talk about the promise of the Arab Spring, and the missed opportunity it presented. Romnye needs to provide contrast without saying, “I’d go to war with ’em all!”, and this is exactly the way to do it.
6:04: Sheifer starts by talking about the Cuban missile crisis and a reminder of what happens if we get this wrong. Then he goes into Libya, where he does not simply assume it was an “intelligence failure.”
6:03: Is it just me, or does this crowd seem pro-Romney from that intro cheer as Romney waved? Probably just me.
6:01: And we begin…
5:58: Dave Buell is pumping up the crowd, telling people to go vote, and talking about how even the foreign press is focusing on this swingiest county in this swingiest state. If Romney wins Washoe, and I think he will, Dave will have a lot to do with that.
5:54: Let’s hope Bob Scheifer either gets his facts right, or stays out of the way. Crowley did better than I expected last time, but she still obliterated her credibility with her Libya “fact check.” Does anyone wonder why the public is mistrustful of the media? Staying out of the way and letting the candidates do their thing is the way to do it. I understand this format is supposed to be like the first, except with sitting, which is good. (Except for the sitting.)
5:53: BTW, if folks want to comment, you surely can. I won’t see your comments until afterwards in all probability, but a few people have told me they wanted to make them and didn’t think they could.
5:50: There are a lot of young people here, which is great, many of whom are women. #waronwomennarrativefail
What Does It Mean To Win: Some initial thoughts here. It’s now clear that Obama did NOT win the last debate, nor did Joe Biden win his. When it comes to almost any campaign activity, the measure of a win is this, and only this: Are more people now more likely to vote for you than for the other guy? At then end of the second debate when the undecided focus groups on both Fox and MSNBC say they were more swayed to Romney, I hardly believed it. But the continued poll movement across the country towards Romney suggest they were, in fact, representative.
Tonight, Romney needs to continue doing what he does – be confident, competent, and in command of both the room and the facts. There were a lot of soft Obama supporters who weren’t happy with the incumbent, and were waiting for an excuse to vote against him. Romney gave them a viable alternative in both debates, and short of a major meltdown by Romney tonight, it’s hard to see how that changes back. And the fact that the major takeaway from major supporters of the Pres was “binders” actually reinforced Romney’s competence/seriousness argument in a way the candidate himself could not have done alone.
Thanks, liberal Facebook memes!
Here we go for the final round. This time I thought it would be fun to come to the Reno area campaign HQ for one of the debate watching parties.
The party is in the phone bank, where about a dozen volunteers were still working a few minutes ago. And now it’s starting to fill up for the debate itself. It’s pretty amazing – I know a lot of the local Republican volunteers, but most of these folks I haven’t met, which is fantastic. The energy is high, and most importantly, confident. Almost everyone in this room believes Romney is going to win this race, but are hungry for more than just a mere win. And there is a lot of buzz for Romney’s just-announced visit this coming Wednesday, where people are talking about our candidate with an affection I wouldn’t have thought possible just a few months ago.
I remember being here 4 years ago, at this time, and the vibe is very, very different. These are people who feel like they’re part of a winning team, and that energy is infectious. Good.