Mitt Romney showed up to the third debate a decidedly more low-key candidate than we have seen so far during the 2012 general election, taking a remarkably non-confrontational approach to his final match-up with President Barack Obama. Romney’s performance was largely unremarkable, lacking any clear argument or foreign policy vision, but also avoiding major stumbles or gaffes.
Obama may have won the debate on points, and even style. But by keeping his cool, and avoiding any major gaffes or stumbles, Romney also walked away from the debate successful.
Romney’s strategy of staying above the fray reflects the Republican nominee’s continued momentum going into the final two weeks of the presidential race. In Monday’s debate, Romney exuded the easy confidence of a challenger who thinks he has enough of an advantage to risk running out the clock. And Obama’s aggressive offence suggests that his re-election team agrees with that assessment.
If Romney’s task was simply not to lose, than he succeeded, presenting himself as a reasonable, even-keeled White House contender who could a) hold his own against a sitting president and b) present himself as a plausible choice to serve as commander-in-chief.
While it remains to be seen whether Romney’s decision to play defence will pay off with undecided voters, it is clear that Romney exits the 2012 debate season as a much stronger candidate than anyone imagined he would be just four weeks ago.
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