Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Third Debate: First Impressions


Let's be realistic here, as a non-US citizen, I'm clearly in the tank for Obama, or so says a recent BBC World Service opinion poll. Gary Younge, writing for The Guardian, thinks that preference is misguided, they're both as bad as each other. I get his point - but rather than equivocate, I would instead offer a bad versus worse dichotomy and Obama is clearly the former.

Last night, Romney's message was clear: "Obama's effort is admirable, but as President I would be better, because, leadership, prosperity, jobs - can we talk about the economy now, please?" Romney's vague tack to the center might be a successful strategy for issues on which the President is weak, like the economy. But Americans regard the Obama foreign policy as one of the President's strengths, and Romney's hazy promise to be somehow better than the current administration made him look like a lightweight.

Body language scored points for Obama - throughout the 90 minutes he fixed Romney with a combative stare that reminded me of Gordon Brown, sans psychopath. Obama seemed comfortable in his skin, like he knew the material and was eager to offer a vigorous defense of his record. Romney wasn't First Debate Obama bad, but he stuttered more than usual and it's clear that foreign policy is not his strong suit.

Will this debate alter the outcome of the race? Perhaps - in a neck and neck race like this one, one or two points could be the line between victory and defeat. Obama clearly fucked the dog in the first debate, giving undecided voters a good reason to vote for Romney, blowing a clear lead and disappointing supporters, but seems to be clawing back some support. Even the smallest shift could affect the outcome on November 6th.

It's a shame that foreign policy hasn't been given the prominence in this election it deserves, since the US President exercises far more control over it than any other branch of government. On the economy, the President is merely a player in a political system which is itself a player in a market economy. On foreign policy - the President has something close to dictatorial power.

Three wins for Obama/Biden and one win for Romney/Ryan, then. And yet on debates, it still feels like 1-0 to the Republican ticket.

(Image source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/23/obama-fires-romney-falters-presidential-debate?newsfeed=true)

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