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OPINION

The zingers belonged to Obama, as Romney took the higher road

  • FILE: Oct. 16, 2012.: President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the second presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.AP

  • Oct. 22: President Obama is greeted by moderator Bob Schieffer, center, as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney stands nearby at the start of the third presidential debate at Lynn University, in Boca Raton, Fla.AP

President Obama defended his positions at Monday night's debate with a passion, that may have bordered on anger. Governor Romney let him off the hook on Libya and the changing story of our murdered ambassador. Romney's strong point was when he attacked the president on his apology tour and perceived weakness by our adversaries. The president might have won in a close debate but Romney passed the commander in chief test. He was knowledgeable on the issues, seemed calm and presidential. Now we are back to what matters to most voters, the economy. This is Romney's strength area.

-- Ed Rollins, former Sr. Adviser to President Reagan; Fox News contributor

Monday night's debate could become known as "The Big Hug." Gov. Romney tried to embrace President Obama's policies on many of the major foreign policy questions of the day in an attempt to block the president from painting him as reckless and extreme. Even though Obama managed to keep Romney at arms length, the subtle message from Romney tonight, that foreign policy shouldn't be a deciding issue in this election, may have been the one that broke through the most.

-- Joe Trippi, former Howard Dean campaign manager; Fox News contributor

Three straight debates where Gov. Mitt Romney proves to the American people he is prepared to be the next president of the United States. He made an affirmative case for the "peace through strength" doctrine that led to the end of the Cold War and the emergence of the US as the worlds sole superpower. That is in stark contrast to an incoherent doctrine put forth by President Obama that is unraveling before our eyes across the Arab world. He also effectively connected our economic security and national debt to our national security and ability to manage the global challenges we face. The zingers belonged to President Obama, as Governor Romney took the higher road.

-- Tony Sayegh, Republican political consultant

President Obama had done his debate preparation this time. I wish there would be more debates as he is gets better with each one. He was able to make some very funny and direct statements. For instance when Gov. Romeny made statements about the lack of Navy power the President shot back with a comment about having less horses and bayonets. Governor Romeny did
not respond to President Obama's charge on his investment in a Chinese company that was doing business with Iran. The president showed himself to be presidential. Governor Romeny came off as someone who could occupy the Oval Office but if Americans can decide who they feel safest with, I think it is going to be President Obama.

-- Ellen Ratner, Washington Bureau Chief, Talk Radio News Service; Fox News contributor

President Obama won the debate on knowledge of the issues; Romney had no clear alternative world vision. On substance, Romney more often than not agreed with Obama. Romney did have a better closing statement. Neither made any glaring errors. Thus, the overall race will remain a virtual tie.

-- John LeBoutillier, Fox News contributor;  former Republican New York Republican Congressman

Romney and Obama were about equal tonight - O had stronger first half, Romney never answered question about increasing defense spending while saying national debt is foreign policy issue; Romney had a stronger second half, especially with his closer that emphasized a bipartisan approach and his willingness to say "I agree with the president" when it was merited.

President Obama used words like reckless and "all over the place" - and there is certainly some truth about the latter and Romney (his Republican opponents pointed that out all the time), but I don't think anything Romney said, or has said, brands him as "reckless"

Both candidates seemed silly at times arguing about domestic issues during a foreign policy debate.

The bottom line is that there were few if any minds changed tonight. This race was and is a dead heat.

Going forward here' my advice for President Obama:

Take down your negative ads, go back to positive your themes of 2004 and '08 - a "purple" America can work together again and that is the kind of second term president you can and will be -- creating a new center where solutions can be found.

My advice for Governor Romney is similar. Governor, your closer tonight about bringing America together works in foreign policy and in domestic policy - and please remind America of the moderate governor you were in Massachusetts working with Democrats.

-- Lanny Davis, former White House Special Counsel to President Clinton; attorney, commentator, Fox News contributor

Was that a foreign policy debate?  You had to listen closely to hear the foreign policy and national security issues make cameos in a debate otherwise about the U.S. economy.  Iran, Al Qaeda, Libya, Russia, China, Latin America all got some attention.  But both President Obama and Governor Romney saw it in their interest to navigate carefully the controversial issues of war and peace and then steer toward domestic matters.  Obama tried to pound his message of ever-more government spending (euphemism: "investment") to "nation-build here at home,"while Romney spoke often of Obama's disastrous economy and his own pro-growth policies to get job creation going. And because that ended up being the playing field, Romney won. Obama is presiding over a weakening economy and a foreign policy in collapse, neither of which he can defend.  So he came off as petulant and defensive, while Romney remained calm, responsible, thoughtful, and solutions-oriented. Obama was trying to bait Romney into repeated fights, a trap into which he did not fall. Romney denied Obama and the left an opening to paint him as a "warmonger," which was the last remaining smear in their arsenal. While Obama was small and petty, Romney was Reaganesque: strong, principled, and a true Happy Warrior.  And with that, he won...the debate, and maybe the election.

-- Monica Crowley, radio talk show host; Fox News contributor

Neither candidate managed to deliver a knockout punch in Monday night’s debate. President Obama appeared to edge past Gov. Romney on substance, but Romney proved himself to be competent on foreign policy. Romney’s challenge on Monday night was to continue to demonstrate that he is presidential and on equal footing with President Obama and he did just that. With two weeks to go this is a tied race and the electorate is increasingly interested in what Romney has to say. Monday night’s debate will do nothing to change that and things are trending Romney’s way. The net result of the third and final debate is that even though Obama may have edged Romney on foreign policy points, the governor came across as presidential and, therefore, an increasingly viable alternative to President Obama.

-- Doug Schoen, Democratic strategist, former Bill Clinton pollster; author; Fox News contributor