While there is no telling what could happen between now and November 6, one could say that tonight’s third debate between Mr. Romney and President Obama is a penultimate planned experience. This is the last time the two are planning to be on the same stage at the same time exchanging comments. The November 6 event is the ultimate planned experience. This is the penultimate.
The theme tonight is “foreign policy.” That’s an arena in which President Obama has been said to have the edge. His experience of the past four years has been what most people would consider a model for learning the job, applying what you have learned, and having been successful in most cases. That’s all a president can hope for: to win most of the battles. He has ended the war in Iraq and announced and begun a closing down of the war in Afghanistan, neither of which he started. He has fulfilled, for the most part, his pledge to destroy the effectiveness of al Qaeda, ordering the death of Bin Laden and having killed off numerous leaders of the movement. He has the American “assist” in Libya to claim, although it is still a shaky solution. The Arab Spring produced a number of opportunities in Egypt and Syria and other Middle Eastern nations where the role of the U.S. was measured and prevented us from being drawn into another war. His continuing pressure on Iran is showing results which may deter an an outright war there and the prevention of the country gaining a nuclear weapon. All of these are commendable, but have some degree of tenuousness based upon the way in which politics is carried out in the Middle East.
On the opposite side of the fence, Mr. Romney’s experience in global policy is limited and, to some degree, flawed. But his criticism of President Obama’s actions on the global scene have been harsh and biting. They have had an effect on the way in which Americans are judging the President’s handling of foreign affairs. Mr. Romney is outspoken on issues relating to China, although, from my perspective, his opinions have been idealistic and immature.
Tonight’s debate should reveal both of these stories, and there is bound to be a surprise or two from the candidates. While this debate does not determine the ultimate winner of the presidency, it goes a long way toward affecting the final decision. Pundits anticipate that there will not be the following of this debate in the quantities that watched the first two. There isn’t as much “juice” surrounding this event.
But that doesn’t diminish the significance of the debate tonight. A slip of the tongue, a weak response, an off-the-mark criticism, or the revelation of ignorance on an important issue can well swing those proverbial “undecideds” who are still watching and waiting to make up their minds.
I find it hard to believe that people still fall into that category after so much visibility of the candidates over the past months. I’m a shopper who goes into a store looking for something specific. I go immediately to the section of the store where it is sold. I look over a few examples, choose one, purchase it, and am out of the store in record time. I am impatient with those who linger and deliberate among two or three potential items. So to be undecided at this point seems frustrating to me. But I have no right to say how someone should make up their mind.
It will be an interesting evening in Boca Raton.
Photo Credits: Getty Photos