President Obama went into last night's debate with a pocketful of zingers intended to fire up his base voters. He hovered over the debate table, eager for any opportunity to unleash practiced attack lines against Mitt Romney. He was very aggressive. If you were scoring the debate like a boxing match, assigning points for each punch landed, then Obama probably "won" the debate. But, presidential debates aren't boxing matches. As the sugar rush Obama served the left and media wears off, Romney will emerge as the clear winner.
If the President approached the debate like a boxing match, Romney played it like a chess match. He did two very important things. First, he projected an image that was calm, measured and, above all, responsible. He looked presidential. Obama had the demeanor of a challenger who is behind in the polls, looking for every opportunity to take shots at the incumbent.
Second, Romney's performance was very strategic, playing directly to specific voters in swing states. Romney obviously made a big deal about the looming, draconian defense cuts. But, he specifically focused on problems with our Navy. He cited detailed numbers on the size of our naval fleet. That resonates most with voters in Virginia and Florida.
The media and the left are snarking over Obama's "horses and bayonets" quip in response, but was that really such a great zinger? Obama obviously meant "horses and bayonets" as antiquated components of our modern military. Does he really want to suggest that a 300 ship naval fleet is antiquated? Democrats in New York may chortle at Obama's line, but Democrats in Hampton Roads, Virginia probably came close to a stroke over the line.
The Democrats have struggled to define Romney as someone who would reassert the Bush Doctrine, the mere mention of which gives Independents heart palpitations. They want to convince voters, especially Independent women, that Romney would get us mired in conflicts throughout the world. Romney put any fears of that to rest last night.
Are there things I wish Romney had done differently last night? Oh yes. I thought he let Obama off the hook on Libya and wish he had at least condemned the looming use of drones in the US. But, I'm not the audience the Romney campaign is targeting. Most Americans don't want to know about foreign policy and don't want to have to care about it. They just want to know that there is a responsible adult in the Oval Office who pays attention to that stuff and will keep the country out of trouble.
Last night, Mitt Romney was that person.
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