The stage was set at Boca Raton's Lynn University. The desk dusted, chairs put in place and zingers primed and ready for volleying. CBS's Bob Schieffer the evening's moderator, laid down the house rules to ensure that this "debate is worthy of the Presidency."
Oh, and it was supposed to be about Foreign Policy. Right? Well it kind of was. Kind of.
With two weeks to go to Election Day, and in case you were wondering if there are still undecided voters out there (yes, there are...really people?) both candidates knew that their endgame greatly hinged on this final debate. It's the final primetime showdown before the ballot is cast. And thanks largely to Obama's cardboard cutout performance at the first debate, the race is now in a dead heat.
First I was curious how quickly certain points would be brought up -- key vote-getting words.
So this is how it all started, all within the first 30 minutes of the 90 minute performance, I mean, debate:
9:01: Libya introduced as first question.
9:07: Obama's mention of Osama bin Laden.
9:15: Obama delivers "Israel is our true friend and our greatest ally of the region" line.
9:16: Question about Syria enters debate.
9:20: Gaddafi mentioned by Obama
9:24: Israel mentioned by Obama
9:31 Israel mentioned again by Obama. *Israel was mentioned a total of 34 times that night.*
There were various forms of Mitt who showed up last night as well. His contradictory notes from just last night's debate, at least it kept the next hour of the debate pretty interesting snapping me out of the snooze-fest haze of the first 30 minutes.
Mitt On Osama bin Laden:
"I congratulate [Obama] on taking out Osama bin Laden and taking on the leadership of al-Qaeda. But we can't kill our way out of this mess... We must have a comprehensive strategy."
Mitt On Battling Extremists:
"Well, my strategy is pretty straightforward, which is to go after the bad guys, to make sure we do our very best to interrupt them, to -- to kill them, to take them out of the picture."
Be Nice To Your Teacher, It's a Matter of National Security:
The strangest thing happened. Just as Obama was listing his laundry list of foreign policy achievements, challenges and his systematic familiarity with that facet of the presidency, Romney basically redefined foreign policy by veering into his talking points about strengthening small businesses, professing his love for teachers and Obamacare. Yes that's right.
According to Romney, American grade school teachers are part of American foreign policy. Confused? Wait, there's more: Ohio voters were clearly courted as well, taking Romney's lead (one of the very few as Romney basically agreed with most of Obama's points that night) the President followed suit to ensure his points/rebuttals also got airtime and voters' ears, turning that portion into Debate #1 Redux with endless regurgitation of success/failures in employment rates, love of teachers, job prospects for veterans and the such.
Schieffer kept trying to bring the debate back to the theme of the evening (foreign policy, remember?) even noting that everything that was being said in front of him, was all said before (score 1 to Bob).
Then there were the hilarious zingers. And lots of them. Mostly from Obama and a few failed hits from Romney. But I have to give serious props to the President's crack debate team because it was -- as they say -- "Gold, Jerry! Gold!"
First there was the mention of horses and bayonets by Obama (and you thought Romney's mention of Big Bird in the first debate was random), when he responded to Romney's concern about the current state of the nation's military. Snarkiness ensued and a peppier Commander-in-Chief delivered this gem: "I think Governor Romney maybe hasn't spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy, for example, 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 has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them."
Obama wasn't done. He then went all WWE on Romney with respect to his foreign policy plans (yes it FINALLY went back to whole point of the debate) with this gem: "The 1980s called, they want their foreign policy back. The Cold War's been over for 20 years." (You can hear Obama dropping the mic a la Chris Rock.)
Dictators? Not In Mitt's America:
Apparently to Mitt, America hasn't really had a history of propping up or courting dictators. So The Shah of Iran, Mubarak, Gaddafi don't count I guess.
Mitt's Counterfeit Education:
I'm glad I watch these debates because it's an educational tool for me. Did you know that China makes counterfeit stuff? Have to thank Mitt for that 411.
And my favorite Mitt:
The most obvious move to the centre was Mitt's insistence that he was about peace and not a war hawk for his nation, which he noted, was the "Hope of the Earth." But wait a second, he also views in this order: Russia, Iran, Libya, Syria and Pakistan as troubling terrorist infused hotspots. I'll leave this for you to figure out.
Oh and Benghazi? India? Guantanamo Bay? Not mentioned once. Maybe they were forgotten in a binder backstage.