Monday night's final presidential debate was meant to focus on the foreign policy differences between President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney but, interestingly enough, their policies were remarkably similar. The debate also lacked the acrimony and crackle of last week's encounter, but Obama, who was clearly still haunted by his first encounter with Romney, was more aggressive and armed with opposition research.
Romney continued his move to the center, changing direction throughout the night on a lot of the rhetoric he espoused during his primary race and sided with the president on several issues, including his policy on the use of drones, Syria and withdrawal from Afghanistan. Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, speaking on MSNBC, noted his departure from the Republicans' standard party line and his agreement with Obama on several issues, but said it exhibited "circumspection, cautiousness, things and attributes that the American people are looking for in their commander in chief."
During the debate Obama accused Romney of being "all over the map," confusing America's friends and foes alike. He pointed to a litany of policies on which Romney has changed his positions, including approving economic sanctions on Iran and setting a timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan.
"Attacking me is not an agenda," Romney said. "Attacking me is not talking about how we're going to deal with the challenges of the Middle East."
Neither man delivered a major knock-out punch or made a major gaffe, but "horses and bayonets," a phrase used by Obama to paint Romney as being out of touch with how the military operates, emerged as the night's top meme after the Republican said that the U.S. Navy is smaller than it has been since 1916.
"You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. 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 underwater, nuclear submarines," Obama said. "And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we’re counting ships. It’s 'What are our capabilities?'"
Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who played Romney during Obama's debate practices, tweeted: "I think POTUS just sank Romney's battleship."
New York Rep. Gregory Meeks, who sits on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, speaking from the Obama spin room in Boca Raton, Florida, agreed.
"Obama was in command. He showed that he understands we live in a complex world and how to deal with it, by bringing our alliances together, by putting together and working in multilateral situations like he did in Libya, Iraq and Egypt," said Meeks. "And he talked about how we can't be strong at war if we're not strong at home."
Meeks, a Democrat, is decidedly biased, but the American public seems to at least initially share his view.
A CBS News flash poll found that a majority said Obama won the night by 53 percent, while 23 percent voted for Romney and 24 percent scored it a tie. In a Public Policy Polling survey of swing state voters, Obama won by 53 to 40 percent, and in a CNN poll of registered voters, the president was declared the winner by 48 to 40 percent. In addition, a CBS poll of uncommitted voters said Obama prevailed by 53 to 23 percent.
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(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)