Who Won the Presidential Debate: Obama Flexes Foreign Policy Experience, Trumps Romney



Obama - A

The Obama Campaign should be feeling good about tonight. In the last of three presidential debates, President Obama flexed his foreign policy muscle and Commander-in-Chief experience to shut down a passive Governor Romney. 

Attacking Romney over his inconsistency on foreign policy issues and position shifts on domestic issues, Obama hammered Romney's lack of experience and changing views as disqualifying him from being the next Commander-in-Chief.

For his part, the President did a good job taking swings and telling personal stories. There were few gaffes and little frustration from the President - he came to do a job and he did. This was a very solid debate performance from start to finish with lots of talking points and sound-bytes delivered to close out the debate.

Romney - B

The problem with Governor Romney's debate performance tonight wasn't that it was bad. Quite to the contrary, Governor Romney delivered a calm and smooth performance. The problem was that it wasn't good enough to combat Obama's strong foreign policy record and change the tone of the campaign narrative.

Romney was surprisingly passive, refusing to go after the President's attacks until very late in the game. While talking a good-sounding game, Romney came across as inconsistent and hypocrtical, attempting to label himself the "peace" candidate while simultaneously supporting more bombs, more drones, and "going after the bad guys." On issues such as China, Romney said he wanted to be friends, yet said his first action would be to label China a "currency manipulator."

Romney's lack of foreign policy expertise came back to bite him in the end. A hawkish Democrat that killed Bin Laden is tough to beat and Romney didn't beat him. While Romney didn't deliver any gaffes or bad sound bytes, this debate will do little to change the narrative or his campaign's momentum.

10:35PM - Final Grades: Obama - A, Romney - B.

10:32PM - Romney Closing - Also all domestic. Playing the contrast card, attacking Obama's record, which is probably the best strategy for Romney here. Playing up bi-partisanship again. Accusing Washington being broken when most people know its the Republican Senators and Tea Party House doing the blocking is a risky bet. Decent closing - more on contrast and confidant, smooth delivery.

10:29PM - Obama Closing - All domestic. What debate was this again? Good close - should have been the closing in Denver, not here. Solid tie-in with "doing some nation-building here at home" and focusing on vets.

10:29PM - "I think we all love teachers." -Bob Scheiffer

10:28PM - Romney is getting awfully flustered here as he talks about domestic policy. "I love teachers" says Romney, twice.

10:23PM - Romney: "I'm a son of Detroit."


10:22PM - Remember when the Euro crisis was considered foreign policy? 

10:21PM - Obama still taking shots at Romney, this time over outsourcing and tax policy favoring outsourcing. Jeeeez. Romney needed to stop playing nice 30 minutes ago.

10:19PM - Romney is not doing himself any favors with flowery rhetoric and lack of consistency on foreign policy.

10:18PM - Romney turns China question to a talk of military sequestration. Keeps thumping chest on how much he'll invest in the Pentagon but has yet to answer how.

10:18PM - Romney: Government doesn't create jobs, unless I'm the one doing it.

10:17PM - Ha, the social media folks are on fire tonight.

10:15PM - Here's the China question. Obama up first.

10:14PM - Ezra Klein is spot on nd it is terrifying.

10:13PM - Obama gets a complete pass on drone strikes question. Wow. Get it together Bob.

10:12PM - Want a good way to stop Islamic extremism? Stop dropping bombs on their neighborhoods.

10:11PM - On the question of drones, Romney supports Obama wholesale. Sigh.

10:09PM - Refocusing on Pakistan. Is it time to divorce Pakistan? Romney says no, rightly so. You don't divorce a nuclear state and throw them to the wind - especially when they don't like you to begin with. His policy team briefed him well on this one.

10:07PM - Lots of personal experiences from Obama, hitting veterans now, very smart. Mentioning Joining Forces and veteran employment issues - strong argument for Obama Adminstration's support of military.

10:05PM - For those dedicating their time here instead of to sports, thank you. Just for you:

Game 7: Giants - 7, Cardinals - 0 (Bottom 5th), MNF: Detroit - 0, Chicago - 10 (half)

10:02PM - Obama telling personal stories about 9/11 victims. Bad call. Better expect the "politicizing 9/11" claims from Fox all day tomorrow, irony notwithstanding.

10:01PM - Obama continues to go after Romney for position changes and underscores the argument that a Commander in Chief has to be a decider. Obama the Democrat as Hawk is unnevering. 

9:57PM - Oh yeah? Well I went to the Holocaust Memorial! Let the chest-bumping Israel support commence!

9:56PM - Romney accusing Obama of telling other countries the truth. Sigh.

9:55PM - Now Obama taking shots at Romney's investments. This is geared towards his low-information voters, also super misleading, ugh.

9:54PM - Obama sticking to the "this is not true" attacks. Guess he liked winning the last debate.

9:52PM - How can Romney argue that this administration is weak when Iran's currency has plummeted  and they want to talk? This is an answer geared towards super low-information voters - very misleading.

9:49PM - I get that we don't like Ahmadinijawhatshisname Gov. Romney, but calling speech "genocide?" The First Amendment lover in me cringed at that one.

9:48PM - Romney following suit and keeping the focus on Iran and away from Israel. Strange - you'd think he'd focus in on the Jewish vote in Florida and be much more pro-Israel.

9:46PM - Smart answer from Obama - saying he supports Israel but focusing on Iran rather than Israel.

9:45PM - Here's the Israel question.

9:44PM - Senator Kerry will be here all week folks:

9:43PM - Romney: "Our Navy is the smallest its been since 1917." Obama: "We have these things called aircraft carriers. Planes land on them." BOOM. DROP THAT MIC.


9:42PM - Space mention! Somewhere, Newt Gingrich is giggling with glee.

9:41PM - Obama keeps attacking Romney on lack of specificty and math. Looks like the polls still show Obama favorable on that one.

9:39PM - Somewhere, MD Governor Martin O'Malley is searching for his brass knuckles.

9:35PM - Now turning to education? Boy, my International Relations diploma is weeping quietly in the closet...somewhere.

9:35PM - Romney: "Boy, I sure do hate spending." Romney: "Let's increase military spending!"

9:33PM - George Bush! DRINK!

9:32PM - Lots of domestic policy tie-ins from both candidates. Looks like Bob is giving up on this one.

9:30PM - Sorry for the slow updates all. If you're having problems loading the site, keep trying and follow me on Twitter in the meantime at @markskogan

PolicyMic right now:

9:25PM - Obama tries to transition to domestic policy, Schieffer cuts him off. Good on you, Bob.

9:24PM - Obama is focusing on Romney's inconsistency - the parties have formally switched sides on foreign policy. If you had told me this would have happened four years ago, I would have called the mental asylum.

9:23PM - Nice shot from Obama: Romney says we shouldn't do anything different because we're doing everything right. 

9:20PM - This is where the policy wonks get super engaged and the rest of the public dozes off.

9:18PM - Pretty sure I just heard the word "arms" twenty times in ten seconds in Romney's Syria answer.

9:16PM - 15 minutes of Libya question. Not one mention of Benghazi. Guess we're leaving that one back at Hofstra.

9:16PM - Moving on to Syria. Schieffer putting the pressure on Obama - good question.

9:14PM - And we're back to being testy. That semi-peace almost lasted 15 minutes!

9:13PM - Great response from Romney: "attacking me is not an agenda."

9:12PM - Wow, that ramped up quickly. Big attacks from Obama on Romney's inconsistency and inability to stay on message.

9:11PM - Russia! Drink! Obama on the offensive, attacking Romney much more aggressively than vice versa. Obama taking shots at Romney's policy positions and foreign policy experience - pretty angry attacks.

9:09PM - Romney: "Go after the bad guys." US Foreign Policy brought to you by G.I. Joe.

9:07PM - Obama follows suit. I bet inside polling said "tone it down" for both campaigns. Much calmer start out of the gate.

9:05PM - Good job by Romney to lay out his framework and pre-empt the Osama Bin Laden talk. Competant and confidant start so far.

9:04PM - Romney with the first question on Libya. Let's see if he can make up for last week.

9:02PM - Jesus Bob, Russia mentioned BEFORE THE DEBATE EVEN STARTS? My liver isn't going to survive this nonsense.

9:01PM - The office pool has 9:17PM as the time by which one of the candidates will complain about a breach of the rules. Anyone have bets? Here we go.

8:55PM - Solid purple binder from Bob Schieffer. Five minutes away.

8:52PM - CNN Focus Group Female: "I want someone to rock my world tonight." Well that's ONE way to word it.

I'm sure someone will give her a hanging chad, if you know what I mean.

8:48PM - Do you think they let Tagg Romney in the room tonight?

8:45PM - A good point from CNN's John King: Americans love electing Governors but Governors rarely have any foreign policy experience. We'll see that problem show itself throughout the debate tonight, I'm sure. Romney's fumble of last week's Libya softball doesn't give Republicans a whole lot of faith tonight.

8:39PM - Unlike last week, I am back home in the comfort of my Washington DC home rather than in lovely Florida. On the one hand, I don't get to enjoy the spin alley adventure. On the other hand, I can drink. Guess which one I'm going to be happier about roughly three "China curreny manipulation" questions deep?

8:28PM - While you're waiting, check out this amazing and exclusive PolicyMic interview with Stephanie Cutter, the Obama Campaign's Deputy Director on tonight's debate and issues affected millenials. 

8:25PM - T-minus 35 minutes and I am LIVE. Who's excited? This guy.


All prior updates were provided by the unbelievably talented editorial team at PolicyMic HQ.

Obama vs Romney, round 3. And this time it’s personal.

The two candidates will meet at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., at 9:00 pm EST on Monday. Bob Schieffer will moderate the debate, set to focus exclusively on foreign policy issues (mostly topics concerning the Middle East … yippee, something everyone isn’t tired of talking about when it comes to foreign policy).

The third and final presidential debate comes less than a week after the candidates met in the New York Town Hall debate, a “friendly Q&A conversation” with undecided voters that at times saw the candidates get testy and heated with one another.  

The format of this debate is identical to the first presidential debate (which many believed was a consensus win for Romney). This time, though, it's expected that moderator Bob Schieffer will take a more active role than Jim Lehrer. Schieffer is known for asking questions that get his subjects to open up, as well as pressing on issues and getting to the bottom of vague or elusive answers. After last week's Town Hall debate, in which both Obama and Romney skirted answers without real intervention from Candy Crowley, it will be interesting to watch Schieffer hold them to a more direct answer.

There will be six specific topics at this debate, and fully two-thirds –– two-thirds! – are about the Middle-freakin'-East.

Expect Obama’s handling of Afghanistan, his questionable response to the Syrian uprising, the drone attacks in Pakistan, diplomatic relations with Egypt, the impact of the Arab Spring and his administrations relationship with Israel vis-à-vis Iran’s quest to secure and develop nuclear weapon capability to be covered extensively.

Iran and its nuclear program will get exceptional airtime, especially in the wake of a New York Times report that the Obama Administration has tentatively agreed to one-on-one negotiations with Iran.

The Libyan attack which saw the assassination o f U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens is a weakness in the Obama foreign policy record that was debated effectively by VP candidate Paul Ryan in his debate against Vice President Biden, but Romney was unable to capitalize on the advantage passed to him by Ryan.

Recent polling after the attack in Benghazi has showed that the president’s approval on foreign policy has gone under 50% for the first time in his presidency. 

The two candidates will be looking to give themselves some added momentum by absolutely #KillingIt in the final debat. In order to “win” that debate, each candidate will need to touch on the issues that are most important in the mind of the American voter.

Should be a good one.

Live stream here: 

PolicyMic will be covering the final presidential debate in its entirety. 


5:45 pm: This one GIF pretty much sums up the 2012 election: 

5 pm: What do we need to hear from Romney tonight in order for him to set himself apart?

PolicyMic pundit Daniel Bender weighs in: 

"Romney has not been able to adequately articulate an answer to that question. On other issues, Romney has offered clues but little substance. He has come out in favor of arming Syrian militias, but that plan poses serious risks, especially to our close ally Israel and its national security. He has talked tough on the issue of Iranian nuclear development, but so has Obama. He has tried to antagonize China, but Obama has already signaled a dramatic shift by redirecting our military focus strategically towards China in an effort to contain its power. He has accused Obama of alienating long-standing allies such as Israel, but would rather see our military and foreign policy be dictated by the will of a foreign dignitary."

4:54 pm: An image of Mitt Romney pops up in an Iowa corn field .....

4:40 pm: Some quick conservative humor: 

4:30 pm: The World is Watching Tonight: Remember that it's not only Americans who care about the foreign policy debate, it's also the rest of the world. PolicyMic Pundit Kathleen O'Neill reports:

The U.S. is still recovering from a Bush presidency in the eyes of the world. Four years after he left office, four years after his predecessor took the oath, on the streets of Cairo, you can still hear denunciations of Bush. 

Barack Obama was hailed as offering a new vision and new hope for the Middle East when he took office four years ago, and while still comparatively well received compared to Bush, his popularity is waning, particularly amongst the increasingly influential youth. The next president, be it a continuation of Obama's tenure or Mitt Romney, will find himself battling two fronts: the wishes of his constituency and global interests. 

America’s image was in need of drastic repair after the invasion of Iraq. Obama’s speech in front of Cairo’s youth in 2009 left many optimistic. His opportunity to prove himself the leader presented itself just two years later when protests erupted in Tunis calling for a change of order. Within weeks these protests had spread to Cairo, where slow reactions from the White House demanding Mubarak’s resignation left many in the region’s most populous country disappointed. The tear gas supplies that continued to enter the country knowing that the military was using it against its people in an effort to suppress them outraged Egyptians and Americans alike, with countless petitions being sent around demanding an immediate cessation of shipments. 

In Syria, the continued bloodshed and failure to stop the slaughter has instilled disillusionment. The hallow calls for Bashar al-Assad ("lion" in Arabic) to step down are nothing more than empty words. The faltering relationship with China and Russia has been exemplified over the UN’s failure to do more than ineffective resolutions. 

Fears of a nuclear Iran fill American newspapers, while Romney decries an easing friendship with Israel. Palestinian statehood continues to be sidelined. Fears of the growing influence of Islamist parties in the region terrify Americans.

It is undeniable that the Middle East plays an important role in U.S. foreign policy, be it oil dependence, military bases, foreign aid, etc. As such, maintaining a strong relationship with not only the region's governments, but also the people, are paramount to fulfilling U.S. interests. This tenuous relationship may be becoming even more precarious. Recent polling data indicated that 54% of Americans would prefer a stable Middle East to a more democratic one. 

This is the obstacle of tonight’s debate. How to balance U.S. interests, the desires of the American people and the wishes of the people of the Middle East (and the rest of the world) to ensure that all people are satisfied? A return to dictatorial regimes in the name of stability (a la Mubarak) will only serve to further sever American interests. Continued disengagement in Syria will further alienate potential allies as the regional power dynamics shift, and create more opportunities for terrorist pockets to develop.

While the American people may wish for stability over democracy, this is the worst thing for American interests. The goal of tonight’s debate should be to explain that transformation from the oppressive regional regimes is better for everyone in the long run. If the U.S. can actively engage in supporting this, and fostering the transition and upholding the beliefs that democracy is best, even if it may not be our vision for the country. 

3:58 pm: This:


3:54 pm: Romney has also been heavily criticized for his ventures into foreign policy, first on a somewhat embarrassing trip to England, Israel and Poland, and then after he made hasty remarks regarding the protests in Egypt and Libya before all the facts had become clear.

3:41 pm: PolicyMic reporter Ed Williams will be reporting live from the debate in Florida. Here's a photo he snapped of John McCain:

2:26 pm: The evening could be the make-or-break for Romney. As it stands, the race for the White House is in a dead heat, and after a poor first performance from the president, Romney seems to have the advantage. But foreign policy is a tricky area for him. He's made a series of blunderous comments about Libya and the Palestinians, and compared to Obama's four years of dealing with these issues, has no real experience on these issues. Will he be able to land the president a devastating third-round blow? Will Obama continue with his aggressive, no-holds-barred approach that won him the second debate? Weigh-in in the comments below.

2:21 pm: Watch carefully as Governor Romney continues to declare he will label China a “currency manipulator” on the first day. Similarly, look for President Obama’s explanation of a leaked story regarding bilateral talks with Iran regarding their nuclear program that the administration quickly denounced.

2:08 pm: There will be huge pressure on Romney to perform well in the debate, particularly given his gaffe-filled international trip this summer and his recent fumbling regarding the terrorist attacks in Benghazi. While Romney's attacks against the Obama recovery have been effective, his foreign policy criticisms have been far less clear and have often backfired. Alongside mounting an attack against Obama, Romney is in dire need of demonstrating his foreign policy competence.

2 pm: As the aftermath of the first presidential debate indicates, these debates are potential vehicles for serious changes in voter sentiments. Thus, this contest is far from over. According to the most recent Gallup poll, Romney currently holds leads among registered and likely voters nationwide of 3 points and 7 points respectively. However, as Nate Silver illustrates, Obama currently maintains leads in key swing states, giving him a 68% chance of capturing the majority share of the electoral college vote to Romney’s 32%. This will be the last chance for the candidate’s to challenge each other’s positions and sway the votes of the undecided viewing public. Expect a good show.

Monday, 11 am This Debate Actually Matters: 

A strong performance at the Monday night debate will undoubtedly help nudge one candidate slightly ahead of the other. And now that we’re 15 days outside of the election, even that simple nudge is a big deal.

The story of October has been the come-from-behind surge of Romney in the polls, and the Republican is only continuing his momentum. Some analyses show that Romney may be just a swing state away from holding enough states to win the Electoral College. How does foreign policy play into all of this? If Romney plays his cards right and says all the right things Re: foreign policy in Monday’s debate, he could build even more momentum in the final 15 days of this election.

The world will be watching….

Sunday, 10:24 pm: Obama and Romney now in a 47%-47% tie: Election 2012 may quickly be turning into one of the tightest elections in recent American history. With 16 days until the general election on November 6, The Obama-Romney race is a dead heat, and with very little wiggle room for either candidate.

Swing state polls, demographic polls, and national polls each show the candidates more or less tied. Battle ground states — which are vital to push one candidate ahead in the all important Electoral College — are as much of a toss-up as ever, with many analysts now completely uncertain about where each of the 10 or so biggest swing states will swing.  

The big poll on Sunday came from NBC news and the Wall Street Journal. Chuck Todd unveiled the new NBC/WSJ national poll on Meet the Press on Sunday, and the numbers show a dead heat in the race for the White House: 47-47 among likely voters.

Chuck Todd told David Gregory: "Not all tied races are equal. The president sitting at 47, if this were the Sunday before Election Day, there would be a lot of concerns in Chicago. They want to be at 48 or 49. Sitting at 47 is a good number for a challenger, but not a good number for an incumbent. ... The gender gap: Among men, Romney - a 10-point lead. ... Women: ... President, an 8-point lead here. This is actually his smallest lead among women that we've had all year long. ... In the Midwest, Romney has a narrow lead, but way inside the margin of error. And among all the collective battleground states, a little bit of a lead for Mitt Romney. ... Colorado ... might be the closest battleground state in the country. But it's the Midwest - that is the ticket to 270 electoral votes."

The Midwest, then, has just become the battleground of the battleground states.

The Wall Street Journal's Neil King Jr., added in his article "Romney Surges to Tie Obama in National Poll," that "A late surge in support for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has put him in a dead heat with President Barack Obama with just over two weeks to go before the election, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Sunday. Among likely voters, the candidates are now tied, 47% to 47%, in a race that appears on track to be one of the closest in U.S. history. ... The poll found Mr. Romney with a wide lead among men, 53% to 43%, while Mr. Obama continues to maintain an advantage among women, 51% to 43%. Mr. Romney's edge among men has grown over the past month, while Mr. Obama's lead among women has slightly diminished."

Obama top political adviser David Axelrod sought to down-play the new poll, telling David Gregory on Meet the Press that "Every time I've visited with you, I've predicted that this would be a close race. But we feel good about where we are. We feel we're even or ahead in these battleground states. If you look at the early voting that's going on around the country, it's very robust and it's very favorable to us. And we think that's a better indicator than these public polls, which are frankly all over the map."

The two candidates will be looking to give themselves some added momentum by absolutely #KillingIt in the final presidential debate on Monday, a debate that will focus exclusively on foreign policy. In order to “win” that debate, each candidate will need to touch on the issues that are most important in the mind of the American voter.

What are those issues? The Pew Research Center, in recent polling (October 4-7), outlined some of these issues, finding that 54% of Americans continue to say it is more important to have stable governments in the Middle East, even if there is less democracy in the region. Fifty-six percent say it is more important to take a "firm stand" against Iran's nuclear program, while 35% say it is more important to avoid conflict. Sixty-three percent say they think the U.S. should be less involved with changes of leadership in the Middle East, compared with 23% who say the U.S. should be more involved. In a separate survey from October 12-14, 38% disapprove of the Obama administration's handling of the terrorist attack in Benghazi, while 35% approve. The survey found large partisan differences regarding details of the Libya situation. For example, 41% of Republicans say they heard a lot about incorrect statements by the administration about protests outside the embassy when the attacks occurred, compared with 17% of Democrats and 28% of Independents. Of those who haven't made up their minds at this point, the foreign policy answers by the candidates may help them decide.

Keep following PolicyMic for all the lateast polling and debate updates throughout the coming days.