EditorialThe fact that President Obama dominated Romney in their foreign policy debate is clear. The president not only got in his fair share of zingers (horses, bayonets and submarines come to mind), but was also confident in his ability to argue the success of his foreign policy priorities and how they tied into the need to nation-build here at home. If Romney had a message, it was tough to discern exactly what it was, and his tone was hesitant and insecure. But what may hurt Romney even more than the overall tone and tenor of the debate? The amount of time he spent agreeing with President Obama's foreign policy vision.
Presidential debate: Romney endorses Obama
A viewer who hadn't tuned into the campaign between Romney and Obama before Monday night's debate might have wondered what all the shouting was about.
Monday's presidential debate, the third and last between President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney, featured a forceful and articulate defense of Obama's foreign policy. That was no surprise. What was surprising was that it came from Romney.
That seemed to annoy the president — who was prepared to rebut his opponent's previous, more bellicose pronouncements. But the ever-shifting Republican nominee tacked even closer to the moderate middle than he did in the debate devoted to economic policy.
I am glad to know that mitt agrees with Obama so much.No, really.Why vote?— Glenn Beck (@glennbeck) October 23, 2012
As much as Democrats were distraught by Obama's desire to find common ground with his opponent during the first debate, Romney's desire to do the same with what their alternate reality views as a weak, apologetic and anti-Israel foreign policy must have been even more painful for conservatives. Democrats support the president because we actually like him. Conservatives, on the other hand, are behind Romney not because they really like him, but because they despise Obama and will do whatever it takes to get rid of him, even if it means reconciling themselves to someone who will do anything to get elected.
Unfortunately for Romney, this situation put him in a bind that he did not face during the debates that centered around domestic policy. When discussing the economy during the first two debates, Romney was able to (mendaciously) attack President Obama's record constantly, though his success depended entirely on the vigor with which Obama called him out on it. In a foreign policy debate, however, Romney's options were far more limited: in order to appear more moderate, he had to run away from his previous bellicosity and agree with the overall objective of peace. Unfortunately for him, President Obama's foreign policy has been exemplary in this regard, and this forced Romney into two options that were equally unpalatable from a political point of view: repudiate Obama's peace dividend and take an avowedly neoconservative approach to foreign policy, likely upsetting women and moderate voters in the process; or agree with the president, and face the prospect of upsetting his base in order to appeal better to the people who either haven't made up their minds, or are still liable to change them.
In the end, though, Romney got the worst of all worlds on Monday night: he made his base unhappy, got rebuked by the president for his lack of knowledge and inconsistency, and looked incoherent and insecure in the process.