And the winner of the third presidential debate is…

Read few comments by experts.

Josh ClintonProfessor of Political Science, Co-Director for the Center of the Study of Democratic Institutions, Vanderbilt University

The third debate showed Obama with a stronger command of foreign policy than the Republican challenger, as is typically expected from a sitting president.  It also revealed a far more aggressive approach by Obama than he showed in the first debate and Obama continually pressed Romney on key issues.  Romney, on the other hand, quickly adopted many of Obama’s policies and it was ofter difficult to distinguish between the positions of the two candidates.   Both candidates also tried to relate the debate on foreign policy back to the United States economy situation whenever possible.  Moreover, despite focusing on foreign policy, many critical issues were never even raised — there was no discussion about Europe and its financial difficulties, or of the relationship between the United States and Russia.  At the end, despite winning the debate, the real question is how it affects the few undecided voters in states like Ohio and it will take a few days to figure that out.

Benjamin Bates, Associate Professor, Communication Studies, Ohio University

The strange thing about this debate is that it wasn’t really a debate. A debate requires a difference of opinion or action, but, overall, there was far more agreement with one another than there was a clash of ideas.

In relation to the Middle East, both candidates stated that the US government cannot kill our way toward American interests.  However, when it came to dealing with specific governments, both Romney and Obama emphasized targeted killings first, followed by military force projection, and then, and only after military means have been tried, turning toward democratization, economic development, and humanitarian policies. It is difficult to find substantive differences between the two candidates in the Middle East.

Both supported the same policies in Libya, Syria, Egypt, Israel, Iran; there was little difference in their calls for American buzzwords of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy,’ with very little difference in how they would attain it: forward military force projection and then a reliance on the soft power of American principles of exceptionalism.

Both candidates tried to name domestic concerns – employment, deficits, industrial base, education – as essential to creating American leadership.  This is a smart move because most Americans are much less interested in foreign affairs than they are in domestic affairs. Americans, as a general rule, are woefully underinformed about things that happen outside the US. By making domestic policy the base for strong foreign policy, a potential voter can take what they know about education policy or coal mining an make themselves believe that they can make an informed choice on foreign policy.

A number of times, Obama played a “Commander-in-Chief” card.  That is, he drew on his experience as president, experience not available to anyone else, and used his authority as an argument for keeping him. This is the most difficult situation for the challenger; no one who has not been president can use the authority of the office. When this is combined with the idea that US politics “end at the water’s edge” makes it very difficult for a challenger to have nearly the same credibility as the incumbent.

The only difference appeared to be that Obama would prefer a weak China and Romney would work with a strong China. Neither candidate articulated what they would do with a co-equal and non-cooperative China. Given that China is a rising power on a par with, soon if not now, the US, this may have been the most under addressed topic in the debate.

Given how much agreement there was with one another, and given how little Americans attend to foreign policy, this debate probably did not shift too many votes.

Justin Vaughn, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Boise State University

I hope this isn’t too late. I thought Barack Obama had his best performance of all three debates last night and that Mitt Romney maybe had his worst, though Romney still appeared capable. Obama certainly had the most memorable moments, both in terms of quips like when he pointed out the US military uses fewer horses and bayonets today and substantively when he discussed the crippling effects our sanctions against Iran have had on that country. The most noteworthy dimension of the debate, however, was how similar both men were on key issues. Romney’s positions often only seem different in the sense that his rhetoric is more bellicose.


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