Who won the presidential debate? Romney wins; Obama still a bit smug



Tonight is the third and last presidential debate of what promises to be one of the closest elections in U.S. history. As America faces new and tough challenges from rising world powers, including China and Russia, and a volatile Middle East, November 6 could be a defining moment not only for the United States but also for the rest of the world. For a preliminary analysis of the important issues, please see my pre-debate commentary here.

If you would like a play-by-play of tonight's debate from five conservative (and occasionally libertarian) perspectives, this is where to be. You can put us alongside your CNN and MSNBC tweets and newfeed.

I will be joined tonight by what I will call the "brain trust" in short-hand:

Ian Johnson is a Ph.D. student in Military and Diplomatic history at the Ohio State University. He wrote his undergraduate thesis on the necessary conditions of empire, and is writing a dissertation on Soviet Russia.

Jeremy Grunert is a J.D./M.P.P student at Pepperdine's law and public policy schools. He wrote his undergraduate thesis on Aleksander Solzhenitsyn's anti-Soviet literature and he has a special interest in Sunni-Shia relations as well as shari'a law. (To be fair, I don't think Jeremy considers himself a conservative. But he's still a smart guy.)

Ben Judge is a Ph.D. student at the Claremont Graduate University, where he studies political philosophy and is writing a dissertation on William Howard Taft's governorship of the Philippines. His undergraduate thesis was on Islamic political thought in the Middle Ages.

Last and not least, Daniel O'Toole is a Ph.D. student at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is studying Plato's political philosophy and writing his dissertation on Plato's Republic. He will be applying the lessons of political philosophy to the foreign policy questions tonight.

And for those who don't know me yet, I'm in my third and final year at Stanford Law School. I wrote my undergraduate thesis comparing Carter's and Reagan's foreign policies, and foreign policy is still a side interest of mine.

Enjoy the commentary. 

PolicyMic will be covering the presidential debate live. For live updates, bookmark and refresh this page.


UPDATE: 5:16 PM. Slate reports that Obama's foreign policy advantage is dwindling.


UPDATE: 5:30 PM. Obama and Romney have arrived at Lynn University. Giants end their first inning 1-0 ahead of the Cardinals.

UPDATE: 5:45 PM. Arianna Huffington asks if Obama is going to tell us how he'll get China to play by the rules. As I said earlier in my pre-debate analysis, hopefully he won't bash on China too much. It's poor statesmanship.

UPDATE: 5:50 PM. WSJ Live just asked whether there is too much China-bashing. We're on the same page.


Watch the debate here if you'd like: 


UPDATE: 6:00 PM. Giants up 2-0. WSJ Live app crashed. I guess I'll have to tune my TV away from the baseball game, then. 

UPDATE: 6:02 PM. Debate starts at WSJ Live talking heads still going at it? Man, they're letting me down...TV it is. 

UPDATE: 6:04 PM. Libya first question, go figure. Will Obama repeat his statement from the previous debate regarding his initial response to the attack in Libya? He did not, in fact, call it an "act of terror." 

UPDATE: 6:07 PM. Daniel O'Toole makes the good point that Romney seems pretty nervous he needs to answer the question more directly rather than just getting a bunch of talking points out quickly. Jeremy Grunert points out that Bush actually negotiated the Statuses of Forces agreement with Iraq, and so technically, he should get more credit than Obama for ending the war.

UPDATE: 6:10 PM. Ian Johnson says Fun Fact: Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian president said "Amen" today, when attending prayers by an Imam who called on Allah to "destroy the Jews." Obama has declared that Morsi is neither an "ally" or an "enemy" of the US. The president seems to have a consistent policy of ambivalence.

UPDATE: 6:11 PM. Oh come on Obama! Of course Romney thinks Al-Qaeda is a threat! President is being silly.

UPDATE: 6:13 PM. Zinger? Romney just said "attacking me is not an agenda." And, Romney brings up Obama's comments to Putin that he would have more "flexibility" after the election. Obama keeps trying ot interrupt.

UPDATE: 6:16 PM. Moving on to Syria specifically. Dan says if Romney's policy on Syria isn't different from Obama's, he shouldn't pretend that it is. I agree. Would Romney go further? No-fly zone?

UPDATE: 6:20 PM. Ian agrees: There's a challenge here for Romney on Syria: he has state a real alternative policy on Syria, without being in favor of putting US troops on the ground or looking like a warmonger. HAS HE SUCCEEDED IN DIFFERENTIATING HIMSELF?

UPDATE: 6:21 PM.Jeremy makes good point: Obama: "we are playing a leadership role." Umm... no, not really. Watching 30,000+ people die is not playing a leadership role.

UPDATE: 6:26 PM. Ian says Romney didn't have a terrible answer on Syria, arguing the importance of Syria to American interests in the region. Jeremy is unhappy about Romney's insistence that he'd lead on Syria militarily but he won't use...the military.

UPDATE: 6:30 PM. Ben Judge has this to say: "The difference between the two on Syria isn't a military difference but a political one. Romney is saying that we need to take an active role in creating a politically viable alternative to Assad regime. Obama won't do that."

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE -- my co-bloggers are going to move to the comment section as well, since there is just too much to say to update this frequently. I will try to pull the best up here as well.

UPDATE: 6:33 PM. How did the foreign policy debate just become, "it's the economy, stupid," all over again?? Jobs! Pay! Rising income! Unemployment! "I will get America working again." And now we have Romney's FIVE SIMPLE STEPS AGAIN.

UPDATE: 6:37 PM. Our moderator wants to go back to foreign policy. But Romney keeps going in response to Obama (to be fair). Daniel O'Toole says both candidates are coming off fine, this debate will have zero effect.

UPDATE: 6:42 PM. We are still talking about the economy. Jeremy and Ian are annoyed. Dan disagrees, arguing that it's smart to talk about domestic policy.

UPDATE: 6:46 PM. Ben Judge agrees with Dan that talking about the economy is actually good, especially for Romney. Foreign policy argument having zero effect.

6:48 PM. Obama will stand with Israel if attacked. But Obama now talking about Iran -- under his presidency, Iran will not get the bomb? How can he guarantee that? He is offering more of the same.

UPDATE: 6:50 PM. Jeremy makes this good observation: Obama: "if Israel is attacked, America will stand with Israel." But . . . what if Israel doesn't want to wait to be attacked?

UPDATE: 6:51 PM. Obama himself says rumors of Iran-U.S. bilateral talks are NOT true. Will someone in his administration get fired??

UPDATE: 6:58 PM. The twitter conservative universe likes APOLOGY TOUR.

UPDATE: 7:00 PM. Romney is right to change the question! His relationship with Israel would ensure that it's not a surprise, should Israel ever launch an attack again Iranian nuclear facilities.

UPDATE: 7:04 PM. Moving on to Afghanistan. But Dan has this hilarious paraphrase of Obama on Iran: "I was very clear that it was a bummer to standby and watch the Iranians butcher their people."

UPDATE: 7:09 PM. Dan says Romney is weak on Afghanistan. Should hit Obama hard for his half-hearted surge.

UPDATE: 7:13 PM. Moderator seems to have said "Obama bin Laden" before correcting himself. Romney approves of Obama's use of drones in War on Terror -- but says we need a comprehensive solution to the War on Terror. 

UPDATE: 7:14 PM. Ian makes good point that Afghan military is simply nowhere near prepared to operate on their own given our timeline.


Will Romney China-bash? I hope not. Look like a statesman. So far he's doing ok. ROMNEY: WE CAN BE A PARTNER WITH CHINA.

UPDATE: 7:20 PM. If Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants to make fun of "binders full of women" again, she should at least use proper grammar.


UPDATE: 7:22 PM. *SIGH*. But Obama is worse on China. Just called out Romney for "shipping jobs overseas." Enough of this Economic Warfare!!

UPDATE: 7:27 PM. Debate almost over. Malkin has this funny tweet:

UPDATE: 7:30 PM. Ends on the economy. Probably Romney's stronger suit.


OBAMA: Nation-building here at home! It ends on the economy. Obama sounds sincere and polished. Good statement.

ROMNEY: Also the economy. Bipartisanship: need president who can work across the aisle. Talks about his experience as governor. Romney also sounds sincere. Strong ending. Debate probably will not have great impact -- maybe slighter edge to Romney again.



UPDATE: 8:10 PM. Turns out, for all Obama's bickering about Romney not letting him talk, Obama still talks more. 

UPDATE: 8:13 PM. This is a bit fishy. Is CNN not too confident that their preferred candidate won?


UPDATE: 10:10 PM. Here is the post-debate brief recap. Short of it is, Obama did not give any coherent answer to the moderator's sensible question, what should America's role in the world be? Romney gave a somewhat superficial answer -- that we should promote our ideals -- but he didn't get into the criteria for U.S. intervention in the world. But Obama didn't answer the question at all, and instead made a comment about how the world is now a better place, and then moved on to...nation-building at home!

For more thoughts on America's general foreign policy principles, and the interplay between realism and idealism and how that might play out in the Middle East, see my pre-debate article here.