Minni’s Morning Coffee: Economy Overshadows Foreign Policy In Third Debate

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If voters were looking to hear more from presidential candidates last night on U. S. leadership in the world, they were sorely disappointed.

Presidential candidates President Barack Obama and GOP challenger, Governor Mitt Romney, rolled out the same discussion points from the previous two debates with topics often sticking on the domestic economy, taxes, and military spending.

The debate, which was slated to focus on foreign policy issues, offered nothing new to the presidential race in terms of content. Discussion had on affairs abroad stayed wrapped around the turmoil in the Middle East—namely Iran and Syria—and trade with China.  

During the 90-minute debate, both Obama and Romney addressed some hot-button issues with Romney agreeing with Obama at many points in the discussion. It was as if the rest of the globe did not exist, or at best was irrelevant.

Nowhere in the debate was any talk of Europe’s economic scare, the Central American drug trade, climate change, a rising India, Sub-Saharan Africa or international economics.

Instead, both candidates took whatever chance they could get to drag the discussion back home to domestic issues while moderator Bob Schieffer sat back watched it happen.

When Scheiffer asked about America’s role in the world Romney skirted the question almost entirely in his two-minute response.  With a vague statement that the United States has a responsibility to make peace in the world, he quickly jumped home to safety.

“In order to be able to fulfill our role in the world, America must be strong — America must lead,” Romney said. “And for that to happen, we have to strengthen our economy here at home.”

Romney then slipped into the same rhetoric from the first two debates, blaming Obama for the sluggish economy and claimed to know what it takes to get the economy booming again.

Obama broke from the topic of foreign affairs in a similar fashion during other parts of the debate. When talking about military spending, he said the focus should be more on spending on education and domestic issues.

“There are some things we have to do here at home as well. It’s very hard to project leadership around the world when we’re not doing what we need to do [at home],” Obama said, using that as segue to talk about more education and other issues facing the U.S.

 Schieffer at one point asked the candidates to stay on the topic saying “”let me get back to foreign policy.”  Schieffer otherwise let the two spin off however they pleased.

The tone of the debate was one that showed an aggressive Obama, perhaps making up ground lost from the first debate, and Romney trying to stick on his strongest point, the national economy.

Obama served up the toughest jabs and smart talk of the night while Romney’s strategy was what some pundits are calling a “prevent defense” tactic: letting sharp charges from the President slide in order to seem less vulnerable.

One of the most tweetable moments of the debate came when Obama chided Romney for numbers he used to portray shrinking on military spending.

“You mentioned the Navy and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets,” Obama said, pointing out that times and technology has changed. 

During the debate Obama repeatedly aimed to pin Romney as out of touch.

The President  said Romney was stuck in the past with outdated foreign and social policy. “The 80’s called, they want their foreign policy back,” he said of Romney’s charge that Russia was one of America’s biggest threats.

Romney took a few swings at Obama during the debate, saying that the United States is loosing its influence abroad under the President and slamming the president for his attempts at diplomacy.

“The president began what I would call an apology tour, going to the Middle East and blaming America,” Romney said.

Obama argued U.S. foreign relations have improved under his administration.

When it came to the closing statements, both candidates drove home national issues instead of foreign relations.

Romney in his closing remarks focused on America’s the struggling economy asserting that he has what it takes to build “strong leadership” and rebuild the U.S. economy.

Obama focused on what he has done to clean up after the Bush administration including ending two wars and getting the economy running against after near collapse in 2009 when he entered office. Obama then compared Romney to Bush, saying the GOP candidate would enact similar policy as the former president.

While Obama seemed to be the stronger performer (it seemed hardly fair, a sitting president pitted against a first-term governor), it mattered little. Other than entertainment, the debate provided no new information to the U.S. electorate.

If nothing else, Detroiters got a chuckle out of hearing Romney claim to be “the son of Detroit.”

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