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Christopher Sands

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Why Romney and Obama Kept Mum on Canada

Posted: 10/23/2012 8:02 am

In the three U.S. presidential candidates' debates, and in one vice presidential candidates' debate, Canada came up frequently. President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney took note of Canadian energy exports to the United States and the importance of the Keystone XL pipeline and other pipelines connecting the two countries. And Romney noted Canada's corporate tax rate admiringly as well.

But in the final debate of this election season -- the one devoted nominally to foreign policy -- Canada did not come up at all. Is this cause for alarm or indignation?

No. Deepening economic integration between the United States and Canada has made Canada an integral part of the debates over the U.S. economy. Canada should have been -- and was -- part of the domestic policy debates. Even when it wasn't mentioned by name, as the candidates focused on jobs and economic growth, they were talking about Canadian national interests as much as those of the United States itself. There was a lot said in these debates that related to Canada.

In contrast consider Europe -- deep in an economic crisis, it came up only in passing, as the candidates made disparaging comparisons between U.S. debt and that of Greece and Spain. Mexico is a source of grave concern to Americans because of immigration and drug violence, yet the candidates avoided it. Or Japan -- after Canada, China, and Mexico it is the largest U.S. trading partner and never was mentioned.

When Americans vote on November 6, they will render a final verdict on which candidate was most convincing in these debates. Canadians should not worry that they have been ignored this election season. Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney take Canada and its importance to the United States seriously.

Yet historians of the U.S.-Canadian relationship may remember 2012 as the year that Canada was upgraded from the margins of American politics with scant attention in foreign policy debates to a much more central role in candidates' competing visions for the United States economy.

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  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gestures beside his wife Ann following the third and final presidential debate with US President Barack Obama at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012. The showdown focusing on foreign policy is being held in the crucial toss-up state of Florida just 15 days before the election and promises to be among the most watched 90 minutes of the entire 2012 campaign. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gestures following the third and final presidential debate with US President Barack Obama at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012. The showdown focusing on foreign policy is being held in the crucial toss-up state of Florida just 15 days before the election and promises to be among the most watched 90 minutes of the entire 2012 campaign. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Barack Obama, Michelle Obama,

    President Barack Obama, left, gives a thumbs-up as he is joined on stage by first lady Michelle Obama, right, at the end of the last debate against Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

  • President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney smile during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pool-Rick Wilking)

  • President Barack Obama greets members of the family of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney after the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pool-Rick Wilking)

  • Barak Obama, Michelle Obama

    President Barack Obama kisses his wife Michelle after the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, Ann Romney, Michelle Obama

    President Barack Obama, right, and first lady Michelle Obama wave as they walk off stage as Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and his wife Ann, say goodbye to the crowd before departing after the third presidential debate on Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

  • President Barack Obama and First lady Michelle Obama kiss after the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pool-Michael Reynolds)

  • Mitt Romney, Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama greets members of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's family after the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • President Barack Obama and First lady Michelle Obama wave to the audience after the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pool-Michael Reynolds)

  • Barack Obama, Mitt Romney

    Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, and President Barack Obama, left, greet members of the audience at the end of the final debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama shakes hands with the audience after the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pool-Win McNamee)

  • Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, right, and President Barack Obama shake hands with audience members following the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • President Barack Obama and Michelle wave to members of the audience following the third presidential debate with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • Barack Obama, Mitt Romney,

    Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama walks past each other on stage at the end of the last debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

  • Ann Romney, Mitt Romney,

    Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, laughs as she pulls her husband away from the edge of the stage after the third presidential debate with President Barack Obama at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

  • President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney meet family members after the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pool-Michael Reynolds)

  • Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, left, shakes hands with President Barack Obama following their third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • President Barack Obama, left, hugs his wife Michelle while Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney kisses his wife Ann following the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • Barack Obama, Mitt Romney

    President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney pass each other after the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • President Barack Obama, right, and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney shake hands following their third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    US President Barack Obama (R) greets Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) following the third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012. The showdown focusing on foreign policy is being held in the crucial toss-up state of Florida just 15 days before the election and promises to be among the most watched 90 minutes of the entire 2012 campaign. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, left, shakes hands with President Barack Obama following their third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • President Barack Obama makes his closing argument during the third presidential debate with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • Obama And Romney Spar In Final Debate Before Presidential Election

    BOCA RATON, FL - OCTOBER 22: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) speaks during a debate with U.S. President Barack Obama as moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS (R) looks on at the Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University on October 22, 2012 in Boca Raton, Florida. The focus for the final presidential debate before Election Day on November 6 is foreign policy. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • Obama And Romney Spar In Final Debate Before Presidential Election

    BOCA RATON, FL - OCTOBER 22: U.S. President Barack Obama debates with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (not seen) at the Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University on October 22, 2012 in Boca Raton, Florida. The focus for the final presidential debate before Election Day on November 6 is foreign policy. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    US President Barack Obama debates Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, on October 22, 2012. The final debate before the November 6 election is focusing on foreign policy. AFP PHOTO / Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during the third and final presidential debate with US President Barack Obama at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, on October 22, 2012. The showdown focusing on foreign policy is being held in the critical toss-up state of Florida just 15 days before the election and promises to be among the most watched 90 minutes of the entire 2012 campaign. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • President Barack Obama, right, speaks to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • Mitt Romney, Barack Obama

    Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama react to moderator Bob Schieffer during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, left, and President Barack Obama laugh after being interrupted by moderator Bob Schieffer during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • Obama And Romney Spar In Final Debate Before Presidential Election

    BOCA RATON, FL - OCTOBER 22: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during a debate with U.S. President Barack Obama at the Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University on October 22, 2012 in Boca Raton, Florida. The focus for the final presidential debate before Election Day on November 6 is foreign policy. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

  • Obama And Romney Spar In Final Debate Before Presidential Election

    BOCA RATON, FL - OCTOBER 22: U.S. President Barack Obama debates with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (not seen) at the Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University on October 22, 2012 in Boca Raton, Florida. The focus for the final presidential debate before Election Day on November 6 is foreign policy. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney makes a point during the third presidential debate with President Barack Obama at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • President Barack Obama speaks during the third presidential debate with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • President Barack Obama smiles as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pool-Rick Wilking)

  • Mitt Romney, Barack Obama

    Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama answer a question during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pool-Win McNamee)

  • President Barack Obama listens as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pool-Rick Wilking)

  • Obama And Romney Spar In Final Debate Before Presidential Election

    BOCA RATON, FL - OCTOBER 22: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) debates with U.S. President Barack Obama at the Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University on October 22, 2012 in Boca Raton, Florida. The focus for the final presidential debate before Election Day on November 6 is foreign policy. (Photo by Rick Wilking-Pool/Getty Images)

  • Obama And Romney Spar In Final Debate Before Presidential Election

    BOCA RATON, FL - OCTOBER 22: U.S. President Barack Obama debates with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at the Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University on October 22, 2012 in Boca Raton, Florida. The focus for the final presidential debate before Election Day on November 6 is foreign policy. (Photo by Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)

  • Obama And Romney Spar In Final Debate Before Presidential Election

    BOCA RATON, FL - OCTOBER 22: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) listens as moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS speaks during the debate with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at the Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University on October 22, 2012 in Boca Raton, Florida. The focus for the final presidential debate before Election Day on November 6 is foreign policy. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney debates on October 22, 2012 during the third presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. The final debate before the November 6 election is focusing on foreign policy. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney listens during the third and final presidential debate with US President Barack Obama at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, on October 22, 2012. The showdown focusing on foreign policy is being held in the critical toss-up state of Florida just 15 days before the election and promises to be among the most watched 90 minutes of the entire 2012 campaign. AFP PHOTO Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • President Barack Obama speaks during the third presidential debate with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Obama And Romney Spar In Final Debate Before Presidential Election

    BOCA RATON, FL - OCTOBER 22: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) debates with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at the Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University on October 22, 2012 in Boca Raton, Florida. The focus for the final presidential debate before Election Day on November 6 is foreign policy. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    US President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney participate in the third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, on October 22, 2012. The final debate before the November 6 election is focusing on foreign policy. AFP PHOTO / Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEBATE

    US President Barack Obama debates in the third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, on October 22, 2012. The final debate before the November 6 election is focusing on foreign policy. AFP PHOTO / Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • President Barack Obama speaks during the third presidential debate with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • Obama And Romney Spar In Final Debate Before Presidential Election

    BOCA RATON, FL - OCTOBER 22: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during a debate with U.S. President Barack Obama at the Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University on October 22, 2012 in Boca Raton, Florida. The focus for the final presidential debate before Election Day on November 6 is foreign policy. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

  • Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks during the third presidential debate with President Barack Obama at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, left, listens to President Barack Obama during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

 
 
 

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