Last night's debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton --the final debate of the campaign between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama --was a complete rout in favor of the President. Romney didn't even put up a fight. He mailed it in.
There's no point in trying to examine the merits of each man's foreign policies. Romney presented none. He made no pretense of doing so.
President Obama came out swinging. His answers throughout the debate were aggressive. The "horses and bayonets" remark, for example. He challenged Romney. He needled Romney. He bore down on Romney with an intense and unrelenting gaze. He made Romney seem small. I don't care who you are, when the President of the United States puts the Evil Eye on you, you will be rattled.
But Romney offered no resistance. He hung back. He riffed on a couple favorites out of the Tea Party songbook: "apology tour," "throw Israel under the bus," etcetera. But it lacked substance.
Check this bit from his opening statement:
And — and we’re going to have to recognize that we have to do as the president has done. I congratulate him on — on taking out Osama bin Laden and going after the leadership in al-Qaeda."But we can't kill our way out of this mess?" From a Republican! And what's with the "congratulat[ing] the president?" The Tea Party masses crave outright contempt! But Romney wasn't playing to them. Hold that thought.
But we can’t kill our way out of this mess. We’re going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the — the world of Islam and other parts of the world, reject this radical violent extremism, which is — it’s certainly not on the run.
President Obama was at his most intense last night. Driven, unrelenting. He came out for the kill and he carved Romney up good. His command of the facts was indisputable. It was an impressive performance. The contrast in stature between the two men was glaring.
Romney has no foreign policy. That's apparent. It is also apparent that, after his big success in Denver, Romney's played out. He's tapped.
Political analysts sometimes characterize elections as "base" elections. That is, the results of the election hinge on which side gets better turnout from its base, its partisan supporters. Up to now, the 2012 election has been deemed to be a "base" election. And Romney played it that way throughout the primaries.
But Romney's performance at the third debate was different. It seemed aimed to appease moderates --people like the woman at the debate in Long Island who feared a return to the policies of Junior Bush. At this late date, Romney is trying to reach new voters rather than stoke up his base. Might that indicate that Romney believes he can't win as things currently stand?
If that's the case, Romney is in trouble. His performance at this debate --a debate viewed by over 50 million people --clearly demonstrated how unprepared he is to be President of the United States. He tried to seem moderate, but ended up seeming weak. That'll kill enthusiasm from the rednecks. And it sure as hell won't win over any moderates.
I won't be surprised if on election night we learn that Romney hit his high water mark two weeks ago. And that, for Romney, it's all downhill from here.