Our take: Many political pundits and media moguls gave Monday night’s debate to President Obama, saying Republican candidate, Gov. Mitt Romney, did nearly nothing to distinguish his foreign policy strategy from Obama's. But for Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post, no matter how the two candidates looked to “shade the difference” in their individual policies, the distinctions were clear.
Everyone got it wrong. For months the Romney camp thought foreign policy could be ignored in the presidential race. The Obama team thought foreign policy was an asset. Conservative hawks thought foreign policy could be a cudgel to use against a sitting president. None of these turned out to be right.
In the end Woody Allen had it correct: Showing up is 90 percent of life. In this case, “showing up” was showing up in a way accessible and impressive for average voters who have no specific expertise in foreign policy and have gotten wary of war. In the post-traumatic stress period of the Romney campaign (October) he and his team decided, against the longing of conservative hawks, not to have a confrontation in person with the president. Differences with President Obama were minimized. Mitt Romney stressed the use of soft power. But mostly he showed himself to be reasonable and calm.
That said, the president’s broad-based slaps at Romney, accusing him of changing his position on issues fell flat, in part because Romney’s core positions (make the military threat against Iran credible, oppose sequestration, get tough on China, stop knocking Israel and be robustly in favor of a strong American presence in the world) have not changed.
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