NOTE: this post was originally written for & published by MSNBC.COM on 10/23/12
Well, it’s all over but the voting.
Tonight’s debate was clearly won by the President of the United States. While he came out swinging a little too hard in the first five minutes, Obama had an unabashed mastery of the points he wanted to make and he made them forcefully. Governor Romney was also holding back; the look on his face was “pained.”
I’m left with one main takeaway from tonight’s debate: Obama reminded every voter watching tonight that Romney changes his positions wantonly. The biggest doozy of the night came when Romney switched positions on the 2014 deadline for our Afghanistan withdrawal. This is news, folks. His VP running mate said the same thing but left the door open to staying longer. Tonight, Romney shut that door. He did the same on how he would’ve handled former Egyptian President Mubarak. Time and time again, the President reminded America that Romney will say anything to get elected, even if it’s the exact opposite position he took just a few weeks ago.
Libya didn’t play a huge part of the debate tonight but the two visions of what our military should look like did, and what each man described were two very different American militaries.
“Horses and bayonets” may get the most post-debate play, and it should. Romney wants to build more ships and submarines. I suppose by spending trillions of dollars for boats we don’t need is the new way of scaring the hell out of Russia. Problem is: this ain’t a Tom Clancy novel. This is modern warfare and thinking like a Cold Warrior doesn’t make the Cold War come back. Obama was very strong here—”the 1980′s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back,” he quipped—and provided a stark difference between himself and his opponent.
While I thought the Governor would go “Neocon” on us tonight, he did exactly the opposite. In fact, he agreed with President Obama often, and I’m sure John Bolton’s mustache is turning grey as I write.
Somehow, some way, both candidates did seem (to Bob Schieffer’s consternation) to pivot back to the economy on a regular basis. And once again, Obama did a back-of-the-envelope math quiz and he hammered Romney’s math. Simply put, you can’t increase the Pentagon’s budget by $2 trillion without paying for it, nor can you take the Bush tax cuts and cut them 20% more without paying for them without ballooning the deficit. This is a fact. Just saying “Well of course you can” doesn’t make it so.
It was almost like Romney was sinking into his chair as the night wore on. President Obama hammered the “my opponent is lying” nail into Romney’s coffin. Will it be enough? Will it play in Ohio, Iowa, and Nevada? If it does, Obama is reelected. If not, well I’d prefer not to think about that possibility. We’ll know in two weeks.
In the meantime, watch closely as the Obama campaign keeps hammering Romney’s character. It’s how he’ll win.