Romney creating distance from Bush
Updated: 2012-10-24 14:40
WASHINGTON - US presidential candidate Mitt Romney cast himself as more of a dove than a hawk in Monday night's debate in a bid to distance himself from unpopular Bush-era foreign policy, some analysts said.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally with Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan at a Red Rocks Ampitheatre in Morrison, Colorado, Oct 23, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]
The goal was to convince voters he would not start another major armed conflict at a time when Americans remain war weary in the wake of the conflict in Iraq, the analysts said.
"He was basically trying to say 'I am not a warmonger, nor am I an international cowboy,'" said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell of the Republican candidate's strategy going into the third and final debate, whose theme was foreign policy.
Indeed, at a time when foreign policy is an afterthought and the floundering economy and high joblessness are on the minds of most Americans, Romney's aim was merely to show up and look presidential, the analysts said.
And that may have worked: While polls showed President Barack Obama won on points, a CNN poll of debate watchers found that 63 percent think Obama can handle the job of commander in chief, compared with 60 percent for Romney -- essentially a tie.
"That was really Romney's goal going into this," O'Connell said. "To pass the commander-in-chief test."
Indeed, to the surprise of pundits, politicos and viewers, Romney declined to take the fight to Obama over his administration's alleged mishandling of the recent attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya that may have led to the death of Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
The Obama administration first described the attack as being a result of a retaliation by Islamic militants against a US-made anti-Islamic movie, before it came out later that the attack was a planned assault by terrorists.
"He (Romney) just decided to play his cards close to his vest," said O'Connell. "Because as more comes out in the press on Libya and more independents follow it, they become more dissatisfied with President Obama's handling of the situation."
While Romney said Washington must be a strong world leader and have a strong military, he stopped short of making any bellicose statements reminiscent of former President George W. Bush. He agreed with Obama on a number of points, from avoiding US military action in Syria to supporting Israel if the US ally is attacked.
While many analysts believed Obama won on points, it was not enough to stay Romney's momentum.
"President Obama certainly appeared stronger, especially to a war-weary public that is concerned more about the economy. However, Governor Romney also showed that his foreign policy would not differ greatly from the President's," said Dan Mahaffee, an analyst with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress.
Meanwhile, Romney led Tuesday by a razor-thin margin of 0.6 points in Real Clear Politics' nationwide average of polls.
Still, there is a stalemate in swing states such as Ohio, Colorado, Florida and Nevada, and both candidates plan to set down in those states immediately following the debate in a bid to win the 270 electoral votes needed to clinch the Nov 6 election.