The final presidential debate on foreign policy appeared to be a win for President Obama, but a successful effort by Republican nominee Mitt Romney to return the conversation to the economy, ABC News political analysts said.
“The president won tonight,” said ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd. “Here’s why: I think they both came in with different agendas, but the president was more successful.”
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Dowd, who was a chief strategist in George W. Bush’s re-election campaign, said that for Obama, the debate was a “commander-in-chief’s test” of who would be more decisive and strong as president. But Romney’s goal was to come across as a moderate who voters can trust.
ABC News contributor Donna Brazile, a veteran Democratic strategist, said that Romney’s lack of experience on the world stage showed in this debate. And Obama’s advantage of already being in the role of commander-in-chief dominated the session.
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“First of all Mitt Romney couldn’t talk about foreign policy because he hasn’t been there and hasn’t traveled enough to understand what’s going on. I thought President Obama was strong, he was clear. He knows the threats. He’s dealt with the threats,” Brazile said.
ABC News analyst Nicolle Wallace, who was a top aide to Republican Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential race, said that Romney successfully shifted the conversation to ground that he was more comfortable debating on: the economy.
“The debate on the economy seemed to take President Obama by surprise,” Wallace said. “Once he caught on, by 10:15 he was groaning on about tires.”
“The sure sign to me it was a win by the Romney campaign is they pulled Obama into a debate about the economy which they feel like is their strong suit,” Wallace said.
In the end, however, this foreign policy debate, which frequently meandered into domestic subjects like the auto bailout, education and entitlements, may be the one least remembered by voters, conservative columnist and ABC News analyst George Will said.
“Tonight you saw two men who don’t really disagree all that much talking about subjects concerning that which voters don’t really care that much,” Will said.