Well, the final Presidential debate will be over in less than 24 hours.
I’m sensing a certain level of stress among some Romney supporters in the lead up to this debate. Sure, it’s human nature to feel anxious just before a big event … especially when we are so invested in Mitt’s success. But I’m not nervous one bit, and here’s why ….
Governor (soon to be “President Elect”) Romney has much more to gain than to lose in this debate. It’s Obama that has the tough job tonight. The non-incumbent challenger generally has a low-bar to clear in these debates. They only have to 1) show that they can credibly be Commander-in-Chief and 2) avoid major gaffes. Mitt has shown that he is more than capable of achieving this based on his first two debate showings.
Much of the “who won the debate?” game is about expectations. Obama was widely expected to be a superior debater/communicator, and it was a race-changing event when he lost the first debate so dramatically. This set up debate number two, where Obama had reset his bar down to the floor. As such, many observers felt that he “won” the second debate (by a much narrower margin than the 1st debate, and more on style than on actual issues according to polls). But the President’s “win” was really more of a “most improved” award … we’ve seen no bounce in the polls for him at all.
Conventional wisdom is that Obama is supposed to trounce Governor Romney tonight, since the topic is Foreign Policy. The problem for Obama, is that his supposed foreign policy superiority is already “baked into the cake” of his poll numbers/support. Obama’s problem arises from the fact that his foreign policy successes begin and end with “Bin Laden is dead.” Sure, that’s a HUGE point, but it’s sort of hard to talk about THAT for 90 minutes straight. And no voter is going to change his mind to vote for Obama on this issue. “Hey yeah, Obama got Bin Laden … I had forgotten that. I guess I’ll vote for him now.”
Even those formerly on Obama’s foreign policy team decidedly do NOT see this as a strength for him (be sure to read that scathing rebuke!).
The debate will give Mitt an opportunity to, once again, unexpectedly impress voters on the depth and breadth of his international experience and knowledge. The media have painted him as a lightweight on foreign policy, someone out of his depth. Mitt can and will highlight his substantial foreign exposure through his public, private, and religious experiences.
The wildcard issue for tonight is Banghazi … and not in a good way for Obama.
Despite the President’s higher foreign policy numbers in general, this recent Ohio poll (that was even a +8% Dem sample) showed Mitt UP 49%-47% on the question: “Do you trust Barack Obama or Mitt Romney more on the issue of Libya?” Mitt did miss an opportunity to fully expose Obama on Libya in debate #2. Don’t expect a replay of that tonight …