“Spoiler alert – we got Bin Laden”
President Obama made this remark as part of his comedy routine at the October 19th Alfred Smith Memorial Dinner in New York City last week, but he just as easily could have been addressing his go to talking point in tonight’s upcoming presidential debate covering foreign policy. From ending the unpopular Iraq War to the aforementioned Bin Laden kill, foreign policy is widely considered a strength for President Obama, despite concerns in the 2008 campaign that he might struggle as Commander in Chief with limited overseas experience. He may be the only Nobel Peace Prize winner with a kill list, but he’s still got the Peace Prize thanks to his diplomatic efforts to end American interventionism in the Middle East, at least in an “on the record” fashion.
Meanwhile, foreign policy has long been considered as a weak point for Governor Romney, and things certainly haven’t gone any better 2012. There was his infamous quip that “Russia is our number one geopolitical foe,” which we can certainly expect President Obama to bring up tonight. The hits kept on coming during the Romney campaign’s summer European tour, which was supposed to establish credibility, but instead gave the political press a whole new round of gaffes to work with — highlighted by Romney’s comments on the London Olympics. Finally, the Romney Campaign’s initial Midnight response to the recent Benghazi attacks in Libya was widely panned, and he certainly swung and missed on the same front in the second debate when he was fact checked by Obama and moderator Candy Crowley in real time on the “acts of terror” statement.
For these simple reasons, strength versus weakness, Romney will most likely be declared “the loser” tonight by the political press (unless he somehow actually ‘wins’), but how much that will actually matter come election day can surely be questioned for a variety of reasons:
1. Voters aren’t swayed by the foreign policy. The Romney campaign can take solace in the fact that when Americans were polled last month in an NBC/Wall St Journal survey, only 6% listed “foreign policy and the Middle East” as the the issue that concerned them most, whereas 46% listed “the economy.” Trending polls since the first debate have seen voters’ confidence in Romney’s ability to handle the economy surge, and in an election year where it’s clearly the most important issue, foreign policy (and the results of this debate) will likely be on the back burner barring some sort of international calamity erupting over the next few weeks.
2. Romney and Obama really aren’t that different. Ultimately, there’s really not a whole lot of difference between the Obama and Romney, or Democrats and Republicans when it comes to American Foreign Policy today, as Politico nicely stated in their debate preview:
Both candidates want to distort the reality that on the big issues of the day, there is a lot of commonality: Obama over four years has shifted to what amounts to the Bush view of aggressive anti-terrorism policies, while Romney and Republicans have shifted the Democrats’ way on getting out of the two biggest wars of this young century. Both candidates are uncertain — and less specific about — how to handle the new spike in Middle East turmoil.
3. Independent Voters are sick of the negative tone of the election, and if they choose to watch, will likely change the channel. Monday might be the worst night on TV for Romney and Obama to try and persuade the American public, with not only Monday Night Football competing for viewer’s attention, but also an elimination MLB Playoff game. And besides, there are other things to do on a Monday night than watch TV. While it is the last debate between President Obama and Governor Romney, we predict it’ll be the least watched by a mass TV audience, and especially by undecided, persuadable, and independent voters.
Regardless, we’ll be watching the debate tonight, and we hope you can join us on the Independent Voters of America Facebook page for continuing live coverage.