Who Won the Presidential Debate 2012? Most Grade it as a Draw


After two debates, neither President Obama nor Governor Romney has been able to take a significant lead in the presidential campaign. In Colorado, Romney attacked his opponent and helped draw the already close race even tighter. In New York, Obama used the opportunity to rebound from his prior performance and engaged Romney effectively on issues ranging from the economy to health care to women’s rights.  The third and final debate, focusing on foreign policy, has much weight behind it and some argue that these debates are more important than in most past elections.

There are a few issues that are certain to be discussed this round. Two of the most important topics will be the recent turmoil in Libya and the complex relationship with China. 

Arguably, Romney could have been more effective in his response during the town hall debate regarding the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. His approach this time will, in all likelihood, be much more focused. Obama may also have to reassess his response after he discussed the tragedy during an interview on The Daily Show.

On China, Obama and Romney hold somewhat similar views regarding U.S.-Sino relations, but the former governor has positioned himself as the more aggressive choice, claiming he will label China as a currency manipulator on Day 1 of his administration. The debate needs to focus on the candidate’s views and opinions on how they will interact with China diplomatically and economically. Recently, the argument between the two candidates has tended to devolve into Romney’s private equity firm, Bain Capital, sending jobs to China or Obama’s pension, which likely includes investments in China. 

In addition, it will be interesting to see if the topic of Cuba is broached, as recent reports indicate that Fidel Castro is currently in a “vegetative state.” With Florida a vital swing state, how the U.S. decides to work with or not work with a post-Castro Cuba could well be a deciding factor for the huge Cuban-American population. Within this demographic, some note a difference growing between generations on the need for the ongoing embargo and travel restrictions to the island nation.

With these ideas in mind, the final presidential debate should be a highly viewed affair in the U.S. and possibly abroad.

As you watch the third debate, follow along for analysis and opinions from Twitter and around the web.

UPDATE 11:18pm


With two weeks left until Election Day, the debates have concluded. President Obama and Governor Romney were both capable in their responses, though the specifics on their foreign policy stances were not as clear as the answers to domestic policy that they provided during the first two debates.

Romney focused heavily on the Obama administration's commitment to Israel, trying to demonstrate that the president ignored the U.S.’s alliance with Israel.  The former governor seemed to take a more controlled stance on foreign policy compared to his arguably hawkish opinions of the past and tried to separate himself from the foreign policy of the Bush years.  He delivered one of his strongest lines in that the U.S. cannot “kill” its way out of its problems abroad, in an attempt to appeal to more moderate Republicans and Independents.  

There was a significant amount of agreement between the two candidates with respect to use of drones, relationship with Pakistan, and overall stance on China, though Romney claims he will still label China as a “currency manipulator.”

However, Obama clearly took offense to Romney’s argument that the president’s administration will defund the military.  Some of the biggest lines of the night were Obama’s jabs insinuating Romney’s naivety in regards to the U.S. military. Obama argued that, when in control of America’s modern military, a specific and measured approach is needed.  The president used the opportunity to strongly attack Romney with practiced lines that tried to label Romney’s foreign policy ideas as outdated.  The former governor tried to take the high road and did not offer any “zingers” in response to the president, even though his aggressive approach gave him a considerable victory during the first debate.

Romney alone mentioned Latin America and the region's potential importance in the context of business growth.  The drug war nor U.S. relations with Cuba was mentioned despite being in Florida for these debates. Romney could pick up some votes in Florida in his mention of the importance of developing stronger ties with Latin America, a geographic region with a combined economic strength that rivals China.

Again, due to both candidate's taking cautious approaches, neither candidate should be able to claim an outright victory.  Romney strategists wanted their him to be able to demonstrate his ability to look presidential when sitting next to Obama.  And while the president almost overstepped his aggressiveness in some attacks on Romney, after the first third of the debate, he settled into a calmer exchange as the two found various points of common ground.  Predictably, both candidates will try to spin a victory from a tepid tie, but the voters will most likely see through the rhetoric and focus on the final days of the race.

UPDATE 10:37pm

Photo courtesy of The Wall Street Journal.

UPDATE 10:36pm: Closing statements:

Obama: The president criticizes Romney's foreign policy as "reckless." Next, he focuses on his desire to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. and controlling the country's energy resources.  The rhetoric notwithstanding, Obama finishes off with passion.

Romney: Romney reiterates his desire to keep peace and retain the public's confidence in the security of America.  Bringing the focus domestically, Romney attacks Obama's record on the economy over the past four years.  By contrast, Romney argues he can work across the aisle to fix Washington.  Likewise, Romney concludes with a well-delivered statement on the strength of the U.S.

UPDATE 10:27pm:  To be honest, the anti-China rhetoric has been much worse during earlier stages of the campaign. Chinese officials will be surprised at the absence of fiery China bashing.

UPDATE 10:23pm:  Rising China finally comes to the forefront of the debate.  Obama argues that while China is an advesary, they are also a potential collaborator in trade and business.  He also mentions that his administration has come down hard on unfair trade practices, especially with a well-known example of tire exports to China.

Romney echoes that China wants to maintain a peaceful world and then quickly focuses on China acting as an unfair trade partner.  He makes it clear that he will label China a currency manipulator on day one.

Obama unnecessarily turns the debate to Romney shipping jobs to China during his time at Bain Capital.  This loses focus on the plans of future U.S.-Sino relations.

UPDATE 10:18pm: A good point-

UPDATE 10:18pm: Obama has come off perhaps a bit stronger during this debate than Romney in making clear points on where the U.S. stood and where the country stands now in the international community.  Obama argues that the U.S. stood with the public during uprisings in the Arab world.

UPDATE 10:12pm: Both candidates agree more or less that the U.S. should leave Afghanistan in 2014.  The candidates also agree that they believe the Afghan military will be prepared to take responsibility for the safety and well-being of their nation. The next question focuses on the United States' relationship with Pakistan. Romney entirely supports the use of drone strikes and agrees with the President's decision to increase the use of drones.

UPDATE 10:06pm: Good question on whether or not to leave Afghanistan if the Afghan troops are not completely prepared to assume control.

UPDATE 10:03pm: "It was worth moving Heaven and Earth to get him." Obama on killing Bin Laden.

UPDATE 10:01pm: Romney delivers a strong one-liner.

UPDATE 9:59pm: Romney's attack line of Obama's "Apology Tour" should be dropped at this point.  Obama responds to this adeptly, describing his visit to holocaust musuem and to American troops stationed abroad.  The president used that question well.

UPDATE 9:57pm: Obama argues that the sanctions his administration put in place against Iran have been effective and the strongest in history. Neither candidate is presenting new ideas but rather attacking or defending the past.

UPDATE 9:51pm: Obama argues that his foreign policy is more or less similar to the statements that Romney has been making but the former governor is just trying to voice these ideas more aggressively. 

UPDATE 9:49pm: We will have to wait and see if Obama's line quoted below is effective or taken as too dismissive to his opponent.

UPDATE 9:46pm: The issue on defense spending is a particularly tense and Obama does not hold back on challenging Romney's knowledge of the U.S. military.  Obama delivers the most contentious jab of the night referring to the fact that the U.S. does not use bayonets any longer.

UPDATE 9:43pm: The debate, with so much riding on it, is getting tense.

Photo provided by VanityFair.

UPDATE 9:40pm: Romney was ready for the education point.  A tweet from his campaign was published a few seconds before his answer.

UPDATE 9:38pm: Obama champions the teachers and argues that the school system needs to refocus on math and science programs.  This lack of skill is making the U.S. less competitive in the global economy.

UPDATE 9:35pm: The debate focuses on the economy and job creation. Romney offers 5 ways to help the economy

1) Energy independence

2) Increase trade by over 12% with a focus on Latin America

3) Training programs for workers and schools that put kids first

4) Work towards a balanced budget

5) Support small businesses

UPDATE 9:33pm: The question "What is America's role in the world" is too general. It allows the candidates to avoid specifics and opinions and gives them the opportunity to respond with vague answers on the greatness of America.

UPDATE 9:29pm:

UPDATE 9:28pm: Obama brings the foreign policy debate to a domestic focus with rhetoric on "nation building" at home; the U.S. needs to increase its investment in education and job creation in order for the U.S. to project power abroad.

UPDATE 9:22pm: Romney opens up the debate to diffuse the death of Osama Bin Laden by congratulating Obama on his death.

UPDATE 9:06pm: Moderator Bob Schieffer puts gravity into the debate as tonight is the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's announcement that the Soviet Union placed nuclear weapons on Cuba.

UPDATE 9:04pm: Will the debate tonight pull in more that 67 million viewers?  The first debate received 67M while the second presidential debate received 65M.

UPDATE 8:50pm:

UPDATE 8:45pm: 

UPDATE 8:38pm: The territorial dispute between China and Japan over a chain of islands about 150 miles north of Taiwan has created intense friction between the two Asian governments.  The U.S. said it would not weigh in on territorial disputes but it would be an interesting, if unlikely, question to ask the candidates tonight how they would approach this tense issue. Click the tweet for the full article on how trade has decreased between China and Japan.

UPDATE 8:33pm:  One point to pay attention to is if the candidates are asked about bringing jobs back to the U.S. from China.  The inexpensive labor and manufacturing that takes place in China and many South Asian countries are the types of jobs that the majority of Americans do not want.  Many in China do not covet these jobs either.

After the economic reforms implemented by former leader Deng Xiaoping 30 years ago, peasants began flooding into urban centers and competing for labor-intensive positions that paid significantly more than farming.  This urban migration continues today but with a lower volume of workers.  In addition, migrant workers now seek better paying jobs in small and medium businesses or pursue higher education for white-collar positions. Because of this, blue-collar labor is becoming more expensive in China with a decreasing number of workers willing to accept these roles.

UPDATE 8:10pm:

UPDATE 8:01pm: Castro recently released a set of photos to disprove rumors of any major health concerns.  The former leader of Cuba published photos of himself reading Friday's edition of La Granma, the state-sponsored newspaper.  The 86-year old relinquished power to his younger brother, Raùl, 81, in 2008.

Photos courtesy of The Telegraph.

UPDATE 7:50pm: With so much on the line during this close election, both candidates might choose to stay tightly scripted, possibly even more than usual.  Numerous polls shows the election as a coin toss; thus one slip up could end the race for either candidate. During this debate the pressure is equally distributed on either candidate, unlike the two previous meetings.

UPDATE 7:35pm: A contentious debate took place between former New York City Mayor Rudi Giuliani and CNN's Soledad O'Bried regarding the attacks on BengahziThe issue has taken on strong partisan lines and will be a major point of attack for Romney tonight. 


UPDATE 6:45pm: Recent polling data provided by PollTracker from TalkingPointsMemo. Click the image for the breakdown of recent polls by state. It remains to be seen whether these numbers will change after the last debate.

UPDATE 5:08pm: NYDailynews.com developed a useful Q and A feature regarding the third debate. Romney won both coin tosses and will be opening and closing the debate.

UPDATE 4:10pm: The complete description of the final debate provided by the Commission on Presidential Debates.  It is the exact same format as the first debate but with a focus on foreign policy.

"The debate will focus on foreign policy and be divided into six time segments of approximately 15 minutes each on topics to be selected by the moderator and announced several weeks before the debate.

The moderator will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a discussion of the topic."

UPDATE 3:55pm: China Daily, the state-run Chinese paper, discusses the recent arguments that Obama and Romney have had with a small panel. Take a look and see how Chinese viewers interpret the recent debates.

UPDATE 2:40pm: President Obama and Governor Romney did not hold back during the debate at Hofstra.  Will the candidates repeat this intensity or appear more cordial?

UPDATE 2:05pm: The first of many China-bashing references: