(Graphic above from DailyKos; headlines from Newseum.)
By most accounts, including several quickie polls, President Obama got the better of a strangely dovish and agreeable Mitt Romney in last night’s debate on foreign policy.
Romney seems to have been told by his handlers that the bellicose foreign-policy stance he had assumed during the Republican primaries isn’t going to cut it with most women in a tight presidential race. And, of course, women comprise the majority of the electorate.
But to present this new persona, Mitt had to perform another of his patented flip-flops. He had to abandon several positions he previously had held. He had to agree with Obama on certain matters.
This strategy naturally ran the risk of casting Romney as a man of no firm principles, a man of pure opportunism. The Chicago Sun-Times had good cause to editorially ask: “Where was this man all along? And when he gets religion so late in the game, can he be believed?”
E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post put it THIS WAY:
The cost of creating this reassuring presence, however, was that doing so reinforced Obama’s attack line on Romney as an unprincipled politician. Romney’s stands on issues seem related almost entirely to the political calendar: Veer as far right as necessary in the primaries, then slam on the breaks, turn right around, and head in an entirely new direction – all in pursuit of those moderate suburban moms whom strategists on both sides see as central to the election’s outcome.
Obama seemed confused in the first debate by the New Romney (or, depending on how you want to count these things, the New New Romney). He wasn’t this time. “I’m glad Gov. Romney agrees with the steps we’re taking,” Obama said at one point, and then catalogued how it has not always been thus. Obama was particularly tough after Romney praised the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Obama noted that Romney had once said, “We shouldn’t move heaven and earth to get one man,” thereby using one foreign policy matter with which all Americans are familiar to illustrate Romney’s habit of altering his positions when doing so is convenient. In a foreign policy debate especially, a Democrat wants to convey toughness. That’s what Obama’s demeanor did.