Final Presidential Debate 2012 Analysis: Who Won?

George Will, Donna Brazile, Nicolle Wallace and Matthew Dowd on candidates' performances at debate.
3:00 | 10/22/12

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Transcript for Final Presidential Debate 2012 Analysis: Who Won?
And they have Bob Schieffer including. And final debate the debates are over. Students took the day before Americans go to the polls -- their final votes for the presidency it was a foreign policy debate. If indeed tour is charged into education. And the economy along the way -- -- -- the candidates -- their families. Stage and bring them. And it's C -- the president came it'd be tough on governor Romney to a better commander and chief having. -- be clear saying the governor Romney. Had sent mixed messages all over the map and then respond to governor Romney -- attacking me is not an agenda. -- anchor Diane the president nominated back himself three weeks ago could hurt him he was not let that happen him again. He was the aggressor last week he was the aggressor tonight from the very first question two two governor Romney and then president. Obama he wanted to paint a portrait governor Romney is an unsteady leader. Who shifting his positions have policies of the past this -- foreign policy in 1980s social policy in 1950s economic policies in 1920s. Very different strategy than governor Romney tonight almost like a man who believed he came into this with a lead and momentum. Hugging the president and many foreign policy issues tonight taking a -- Asked on the first question about Libya decided not to attack. Again what both men wanted to do tonight he's pinned back the economy that is their core message that is he should they each believe they can win. -- otherwise turn to Matthew Dowd because in the first he said governor Romney want. Second when he said President Obama -- -- didn't -- And is there tiebreaker that who was -- presidential campaigns for. Two decades three prize -- same opponents as -- said -- in the first one by Mitt Romney. -- -- points in the second one by the president. The president won tonight and here's why I think they both came in with different agendas but I think the president and it was actually -- in my view more successful and that's. I think the president saw this as a commander in chief's past who's more strong and decisive in this and I think it's clear that he came through this debate. Much more strong much more decisive and much more of -- commander chief. Mitt Romney's goal was to come across as a much more moderate I'm not gonna you know declare war and everybody in the world you can trust me. You could see me as commander in chief in a much more sympathetic way. -- diplomatically interestingly enough I think he did that well but for that commander in chief strong leader which is where Mitt Romney gained in that first debate. As George said where he won big -- that he actually lost that strongly here tonight to the president's right by points I don't think it changes the race much still one or two point race but he won. Said George -- -- you agree with had to do governor -- -- of the wrong strategy tonight. I don't think -- the fact George that this debate occurred in the immediate aftermath of the death of George McGovern underscores a remarkable reversal. In presidential politics for both parties. That is forty years ago tonight George McGovern was running on the slogan come home America. He then lost 49 states. Forty years on come home America is probably pretty much the foreign policy of an American morality and perhaps an American majority. Has the president seemed to understand. As he repeatedly three times by my count. Said we have to get back -- of nation building here at home and when Mitt Romney was challenged. To take a more assertive and engaged in interventionist foreign policy -- their -- say to Syria. In providing heavy weapons for the Syrian resistance he did not indicate. That he would have that done by American troops and when it was she was challenged about having a no fly zone he seemed to pull back from bat. So it does seem to me that in this debate. Where 35 minutes them they were talking about Medicaid reforms -- in Arizona and Rhode Island and class sizes all over America. They understood and both of them the foreign policy is fairly peripheral to American's interest today at what foreign policy they want. Means a lot less American involvement overseas. And call Wallace's very clear where she worked very Sarah Palin for years ago -- got president George W. Bush -- well. Very clear from the very beginning -- state to pick up on George -- saying right there. That governor Romney also reaching out directly to women voters who could make -- majority audience tonight. Well that's great and and what was so interesting is from the very beginning. This was a defense of the George W. Bush freedom agenda. By President Obama and a loud and -- agreement from Mitt Romney that there wasn't a debate on foreign policy. But the debate on the economy seem to take President Obama by surprise once he caught on. -- by 1015 even as droning on about tires. So the surest sign to me that this was a win by the Romney -- -- was that they pulled Obama in good debate about the economy which they feel like is there. Strong city. Donna Brazil advisor -- democratic campaigns spoke to back. Well first of all Mitt Romney couldn't talk about farm policy because he hasn't been and then he hasn't travel enough to understand what's going on at -- present Obama was strong it was clear. He he knows the threats he's dealt with the threats in what Mitt Romney did tonight was -- you know what I agree we -- -- -- -- Afghanistan. There's no difference that -- -- on Syria there's no difference and even on Iran. An area where Mitt Romney is -- -- above join something more. Tonight he said all pretty much do what the president has done. Jake Tapper you're in the spin rooms tonight I know that the Romney campaign were out in force first but what is the what are you hearing from the White House right now. By the White House says that they feel very -- about the president's performance as you noted George. They feel like Mitt Romney this evening was trying to hug the president when he came to embracing some of his positions you did not hear. A lot of difference in terms of what Mitt Romney would do differently went with regards to. Iran or Syria -- some of the other countries the campaign manager for the Obama campaign Jim Messina. I emailed me when I asked him what he thought he said completely dominance he thought President Obama. Really was very aggressive which -- served him well. I do think it's important to note that Mitt Romney of course came into the night with a different agenda to talk about the economy and not necessarily foreign policy as much and he probably scored some points there but generally speaking on the foreign policy debate the Obama campaign feels very very good tonight. And hearing all of them Romney cited spend is David -- covers the Romney campaign Davis. Eight or Diane another objective for Mitt Romney tonight was to come in and try not to stand in the way -- the momentum he's seen in particular from that first debate. The Romney campaign believes that he didn't do anything tonight that would get in the way of that momentum saying the governor conduct himself in ways that. So that he was in command he was thoughtful -- they make the argument that the president looked like he was on the defensive tonight but if you tuned in tonight for distinctions on foreign policy. But he came to Syria heard governor Romney say I don't want military in Syria when it comes to Iran he said. Military action should be a last resort so again these are policies it sounds an awful lot like one another and I was struck by. Just seconds into this debate we were hearing governor Romney bring up Osama bin Laden first we had a suspicion that he would do that and over to the president. Indicating that governor Romney -- that was decision that was well made in this administration. -- -- thanks Tony that are global affairs anchor Christian -- -- -- -- checking with foreign policy experts through the evening we heard from everybody else -- it seemed like. There wasn't all that much of a debate on many of these key for -- foreign policy issues is that what the experts are as well. Well yes I mean no -- as we just enumerated -- big issues wouldn't be Syria Iran Afghanistan and Libya they've -- even talked about. It doesn't seem to be a huge difference. I think -- what's really interesting that Bob Schieffer tried to Haas President Obama what -- the shape of the deal would be if you did have. One on one talks with Iran the president just said it's not gonna happen when -- -- having those tools to -- push Mitt Romney on whether they would do that. And it mostly offended line Mitt Romney sort of said well you know I'd be tough from the sanctions and I would indict president Ahmadinejad for genocide -- I think a lot of people sent me out in the world. And by the way some of these foreign leaders want to know what the United States might do about Syria because I've spoken to many of them say. If the US led we would be tougher in Syria in can't go around saying Assad's days are numbered. And then just that -- -- -- continues I think a no fly zone is something many in the region -- would -- but even Mitt Romney said no. And turning next to our senior foreign affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz Martha you're sitting at that very -- all the same table -- the vice president's debate so what did you say. Well I think what I didn't see was a foreign policy debate be. We turned so quickly to the economy turned so quickly to domestic issues. And -- think it really surprised me is I didn't hear the term for Mitt Romney peace through strength. A single time there he was he was a different candidate in terms of the way he would approach foreign policy. One thing I did notice with President Obama look not everybody looks at it like Christiane and I do and they're going to all these little policy want things. President Obama human it's what keeps talking about he talked a lot about the troops he talked about. The survivors from nine -- -- he talked about the people in Israel so if in fact he was going towards the female vote. He probably got their attention with that sort of approach. And let's go straight to our senior political correspondent John -- jobless surprise -- us tonight. What top Romney advisor going into this said that our goal is simply not to screw up so it didn't surprise me on one hand. That he really embraced in many ways the Obama foreign policy -- it didn't pick big fights but what surprised me George. Was the degree to which Mitt Romney sounded a little bit like a peace -- you know what George mentioned that George McGovern -- was a little George McGovern coming out of him. Like when he said we cannot kill our way out of this mess or he said our goal is to make the world more peaceful I was a very different tone from Mitt Romney in the Mitt Romney -- -- during the -- Or else that we don't want another Iraq or Afghanistan -- military in Syria and -- also many in fact check. -- any glaring. -- statements -- a candidate. Well that there were a couple one was when that Mitt Romney repeated what he said before that the president went on an apology to -- when he became president. We've looked at all those speeches in this first foreign trips the president didn't apologize for American did acknowledge the mistakes to the United States had made but there's no way you can really caught in apology tour and then there was one from the president when he said that Mitt Romney just a few weeks ago said he wanted 20000 troops back in Iraq that is not true and anyway. Back many months ago Mitt Romney said it was unfortunate that we didn't negotiate an agreement with the Iraqis to have a follow on force that could be 20000 or so troops but he has not recently said that we should send 20000 troops into Iraq right now that is not the Romney. Position currently. -- I'm gonna take a moment's pause for the twitters which -- -- -- every debate as we -- big bird far away trounced everything else in the first debate. Tonight it was horses and bay and that's running away when the president. Citing in the governor Romney is the. Observation about the navy in 1916. Said well governor we also have fewer horses at bay and that's that we did in 1960 and all. We -- now told that the military still does have some band that -- there but let Nicole Wallace a -- A piece governor Romney. Like. I think that the Romney campaign get the kick out of this notion that somehow Obama won on points. The Romney campaign is if nothing else they are stoic they are disciplined and they are insanely strategic their strategy. May not have been to try to beat a sitting commander in chief in his commander in chief -- -- -- possibly do that their strategy was to talk to. All nine of the undecided voters left in Ohio and to bring it right back to the economy and I don't know how anyone can argue that he didn't win and that objective. Is mapped out right when he says that -- the kids. Polling numbers a lot of happy that I am. That is absolutely right that this thing is so cool it is so close right now. But it's a ground game -- -- -- that's gotta go after their base and try to shore him up and get a month ago but. But apple Obama won tonight because he had a strategy to tell the country that this does is it time to have a strong lead in the -- -- -- -- that the. -- strategy has been all along they have said all along that if Mitt Romney crosses that threshold. And being a credible commander in chief after the third debate you can see what happened this year exactly happened in nineteen media flood. To him at the end all those undecided voters at the end. On the other hand there may not be many undecided voters. Out there the apple I think the race that everybody should look at is -- 1980 is too which is what -- 2004 because there's many more similarities in 1980 there was what basis there was one debate that finally got agreed to. President Reagan was all set to take the lead he showed he could be commander in chief and as soon as that debate was over the race was over we've now had three debate. The time for that to have happened was -- the first debate when Mitt Romney won and won big. Right now we're in -- situation just like 2004. Where this race is going to be a one point or two point race. All the way down with a few states that are ultimately decide this race and -- what you had is now as a little extra -- from the president tonight. And that commander in chief test that I think's gonna give their democratic base what they may need to turn out the -- they need to turn -- But at one point race this is going to stay George well do you agree it's not gonna change that polling numbers much. Do tonight respond to -- who don't really disagree all that much. Talking about subjects concerning which the voters don't care -- that much. I would sum this up with a nursery rhyme -- cow kicked -- in the belly in the barn. Didn't do any good didn't do any harm both men -- were anomalies so JT -- tap into it didn't matter but -- man. We're now is I'm sure both campaigns will disagree with the -- set us up now for these final two weeks coming out of this today. What is each candidate's major goal over these next two weeks -- you start. Well -- goal is to go to these undecided voters in these few states and make their parents their economic pitch. The president has an unbelievably packed schedule. I am sorry to say because I'll be with them for all of it going from. Here in Florida to Ohio Iowa Colorado. Nevada. Back to Florida Virginia Ohio again. And basically you're gonna see the president -- Hampshire Mitt Romney is well this focusing on these states they're gonna start to fall away for instance I would be very surprised if we -- President Obama. Go to North Carolina more than once in the next. Two weeks that seems to be a state that is falling into the Romney -- but you're gonna see that keenly focused. I have the president in his campaign go to where the votes -- Right now they need to keep Ohio in their camp. And also hopefully for them and their view Iowa or Colorado and then they can hold onto and -- world victory. And -- the focus and that -- Hate -- that travel itinerary take just mentioned sounds an awful lot like mine because they're headed to the same states Nevada Colorado tomorrow Iowa Ohio later in the -- and -- ABC news poll numbers that came out just today showing -- a tight race. But when you look at the gender gap George you really see these numbers. Mitt Romney leading among men in this country and President Obama with a fairly hefty lead among women. And so expect Mitt Romney in these swing states in these final two weeks to try to court those women those swing voters who really could decide this race on Election Day. An -- for everyone was asking about the pink bracelet the president yes that was for breast cancer but -- -- -- every one. Please get George will's. Email address when you write about the comments is that it should I write and direct -- I think. I'm not distancing by his government figures show a protective and make sure you get that is -- a quick thought or we're going to be talking about to mark Christian. Arab. Spring I know she's a very different vision from both men. President Obama thinking that this is an opportunity in the United States could work -- -- have -- -- once in a couple of lifetimes events in the Islamic world. Mitt Romney saying this is very very frightening and tumultuous I think that's one thing that. You can. I just -- thing that's the last to hear about foreign policy in this campaign has been convicted at a -- -- and as we conclude that debates 2012 we thank you so much for joining us for all of them and we -- here at abcnews.com. Always and a full wrap up of the special edition of Nightline tonight -- It has been a year -- debates have made -- difference starting these primaries straight through to tonight. -- -- -- --

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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