The rest of Romney's debate performance was far more passive. He refused the obvious chance to pulverize Obama on Libya. I would've taken a baseball bat to Obama's second-debate claim that no one in his administration, including him, had misled the country on Benghazi. (The misleading is beyond dispute. The only question is whether it was intentional, i.e. deliberate deceit, or unintentional, i.e. scandalous incompetence.) Romney, however, calculated differently: Act presidential. Better use the night to assume a reassuring, non-contentious demeanor.
Romney's entire strategy in both the second and third debates was to reinforce the status he achieved in debate No. 1 as a plausible alternative president. He therefore went bipartisan, accommodating, above the fray and, above all, nonthreatening.
That's what Reagan did with Carter in their 1980 debate. If your opponent's record is dismal and the country is quite prepared to toss him out — but not unless you pass the threshold test — what do you do?
Romney chose to do a Reagan: Don't quarrel. Speak softly. Meet the threshold.
We'll soon know whether steady-as-she-goes was the right choice.
Charles Krauthammer's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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