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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes: ‘Horses and Bayonettes” Edition

If you had to boil down last night’s debate into a zinger-hooked catch-phrase, as in the 2nd debate’s “binders full of women,” presidential debate # 3’s catch-phrase would have to be Obama’s “horses and bayonettes” put-down of Romney as a defense policy lightweight, as Reuters’ Patricia Zengerle explains: “You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916,” Obama said. “Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go under water, nuclear submarines,” he said…Obama even evoked a children’s military role-playing board game, “Battleship,” to bash his rival. “The question is not a game of Battleship, where we’re counting ships,” he said.” Ouch.
From CBS News’s “Poll: Decisive win for Obama in final debate“: “President Obama scored a clear two-to-one victory against Mitt Romney during the final presidential debate Monday night, according to a CBS News instant poll of uncommitted voters…53 percent of the more than 500 voters polled gave the foreign policy-themed debate to Mr. Obama; 23 percent said Romney won, and 24 percent felt the debate was a tie.”
According to CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser: “Forty-eight percent of registered voters who watched Monday night’s third presidential debate say that Obama won the showdown, with 40% saying Romney did the better job in a debate dedicated to foreign policy. The president’s eight-point advantage over the former Massachusetts governor came among a debate audience that was slightly more Republican than the country as a whole and is just within the survey’s sampling error…Nearly six in ten watchers say that Obama did a better job in the debate than they had expected, 15 points higher than the 44% who said that the GOP challenger had a better than expected debate performance.”
HuffPo Pollster reports, “A poll of 500 swing state debate watchers, conducted by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling for Americans United for Change, also declared the debate a win for Obama. Fifty-three percent of voters said he did a better job, while 42 percent said Romney did…Opinions largely followed party lines — nine out of 10 Democrats thought the president won and 81 percent of Republicans thought Romney won, with independents splitting 55 percent for Obama and 40 percent for Romney.”
At Daily Kos, Hunter highlights a classic case of false equivalency spin with this headline: “No clear winner’ says CNN, even as CNN poll shows 8 point win for Obama.”
At The Plum Line, Greg Sargent had a salient observation: “…America was introduced to Peacenik Mitt — and watched him take a pummeling…Obama got right to his core message: We got Bin Laden, and we’re ending Bush’s wars. Obama holds the edge on foreign policy issues, and seemed determined to reinforce the sense that Romney simply lacks command of them, repeatedly invoking previous Romney statements to hit him for being “all over the map,” and contrasting that with the consistency and clarity he said a Commander in Chief must project…it’s hard to see this as a good night for Romney”
In “Unpacking the Final Debate,” Larry J. Sabato, Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley obseve at Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball, “The conventional wisdom before the debate season was that President Obama would have the edge in a foreign policy debate, and the conventional wisdom was right. The president, through superior knowledge and having — after four years — a record that is defensible in the field, won the third debate on foreign policy. Incumbent presidents typically have the edge on foreign affairs, although Jimmy Carter is, as always, the exception…The question is, how big did Obama win? Not nearly as big as Romney in the first debate, obviously. But by a decent margin — more than debate two.”
Chris Cillizza of WaPo’s The Fix saw it like this: “Obama controlled the third presidential debate in a way not all that dissimilar from the way Romney controlled the first one. Obama clearly came loaded for bear, attacking Romney from the jump for a lack of clarity when it came to his vision (or lack thereof) on foreign policy. If you are looking for moments — and remember that the media coverage over the next few days will focus on just that — Obama had two with his line about “the 1980s calling” in regards to Romney’s foreign policy and his reference to “horses and bayonets” to call into question his rival’s understanding of the modern military. It’s possible that Obama came off too hot/not presidential in some of his attacks but Democrats will take a little too much heat following Obama’s cold-as-ice performance in the first debate. Obama came across as the more confident and commanding presence — by a lot.”
TDS managing Editor Ed Kilgore’s sound assessment at Washington Monthly’s Political Animal: “…Taken as a whole, with Biden winning the Veep debate (though marginally) and Obama winning two of three presidential debates (the “rubber match” pretty clearly), the question now is whether that first debate gave Romney a decisive, irreversible advantage, either by carrying Romney across some “acceptability” threshold for “wrong track” undecided voters or or exciting conservatives beyond all reality…If the answer is “no,” Obama’s in pretty good shape going into the last two weeks, assuming the Democratic GOTV “ground game” is as good as advertised. Certainly Romney did nothing tonight to attract voters not already inclined to back him.”
Tweet of the night could go to TPM’s Josh Marshall (@joshtpm): “Huh, lot of my Republican friends suddenly seem really focused on sports.”

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