Coffee House

Mitt Romney is closer than ever to the presidency

23 October 2012

The presidential debates are over, and Mitt Romney is within touching distance of the White House. Barack Obama was the better candidate – just – in last night’s third and final presidential debate, on the attack and with his trademark eloquence restored. But he needed to deliver a knockout blow to Mitt Romney, and failed. Everyone knows Obama is great with words. What is not entirely clear to voters is that Mitt Romney isn’t evil. As it turned out, Romney came across as moderate, articulate and well-informed- and a plausible commander-in-chief. The next election may very well be his.

A snap CNN Poll called it 48-40 for Obama, wider than the 37-33 of the second debate but a far cry from the 71-10 victory Romney was granted in the first debate. The debate was on foreign policy and Romney’s tactic seemed to be holding Obama in a boxer’s clinch, agreeing with him on Syria and Iran. Obama’s strategy was to portray Romney as out of his depth, and a bit of an extremist. Perhaps the most memorable of the night was when Obama fought back on his defence cuts with his line saying ‘we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed’. That got a quiet laugh from the hall, but would it resonate in the homes of an America worried about defence cuts? Or with military families who know that the marines do, in fact, still use bayonets?

Obama may have had the best lines, but Romney had the best ammo – mainly drawn from Obama’s record. One of his best lines was denouncing Obama for his ‘apology tour’.

‘Mr. President, the reason I call it an apology tour is because you went to the Middle East – by the way, you skipped Israel, our closest friend in the region – then in those nations, and on Arabic TV, you said that America had been dismissive and derisive. You said that on occasion America had dictated to other nations. Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictators.’


Obama had no answer to that. Later, he tried to weave his ‘forward, not back’ theme into the debate:

‘Governor Romney, I’m glad that you recognise that al-Qaeda is a threat, because a few months ago when you were asked what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia, not al-Qaeda. In the 1980s, they’re now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because – you know – the Cold War’s been over for 20 years. Governor, when it comes to our foreign policy you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.’

But like Cameron at the Tory conference, the impact of the words was dampened by the records. It’s hard to talk about economic recovery where none is in evident. Obama said that Assad’s days are numbers; but he said that 12 months ago and 30,000 more have died. He spoke with steely resolve about stopping a nuclear Iran – but that nuclear programme is proceeding apace.

When Obama spoke about going forward not back then Romney was able to quote the record:

‘I couldn’t agree more about going forward, but I certainly don’t want to go back to the policies of the last four years. [They] have seen incomes in America decline every year for middle income families, now down $4,300 during your term… When you came to office 32m were on food stamps. Today, 47m are on food stamps. When you came to office: just over $10 trillion in debt. Now: $16 trillion in debt. It hasn’t worked. It’s just a tragedy – for a nation so prosperous as ours – that the last four years have been so hard.’

The bar was higher for Obama: he has had four years as a commander-in-chief so he was expected to do well The test for Romney was whether he could sound like a man in charge of a military, and a superpower’s foreign policy. He passed. Obama’s mission was to portray Romney as a bellicose ingénue. He failed.

When asked by this morning’s CNN snap poll if they could see either candidate as a commander-in-chief, Obama won by just 63-60. Not much of a margin for someone who actually has done the job for four years. Asked if the debate made voters more or less likely to vote for the candidate, Romney won by 47-32.

I’d say the three debates can be seen as, overall, a net win for Romney because Obama was unable to claw back ground he lost in the first debate. “Attacking me is not an agenda,” said Romney – a good line because Obama’s biggest single problem has been his failure to explain just what he’d do with four more years. With both candidates on 47pc in the polls, and the race still a toss-up in Florida, Ohio and Nevada, Romney still has everything to play for. With just two weeks until the election, he is closer than ever to the presidency.

More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us now.

  • El_Sid

    Good piece from George Friedman :
    “Thomas Jefferson’s campaign said of John Adams that he had a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” Adams’ campaign stated that Jefferson was “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” And Jefferson and Adams were friends. I would suggest suspending the idea that we have never had so vicious a politics….
    I am arguing that the subject of the debate and the specific answers in the debate are doubly unimportant. First, the nature of these debates makes coherent presentation impossible. Second, the stated policies, such as they are, have little to do with the results of the debate. Nor will the better debater win. The winner of the debate will be the one whose soul, when glimpsed, appears able to withstand the burdens of the presidency. Romney’s surge had less to do with Obama’s performance and more to do with what the viewer learned of Romney.”

  • M. Wenzl

    If Romney wins let’s build a rocket and leave the planet.

  • Realist

    Anyone who has been to the U.S. in recent years and seen ‘everytown’ for themselves will know that it is far from being the economic powerhouse it once laid claim to. Away from the glittering towers of the C.B.D. in a lot cities, there is evidence of decline and delapidation (Detroit being one example, for instance). Personally, I do not think more tax cuts and public service cut-backs will be of lasting benefit to the national economy – there might be a temporary upswing but it just doesn’t stay the course. I do not support ‘big’ Government but neither do I advocate a ‘free for all’ economy either. So where does the average elector cast his vote? Very hard to decide I should have thought. Whoever wins this November, the country is in for a hell of a ride and I’m not sure it will be uphill.

    • Augustus

      ” So where does the average elector cast his vote?”
      Well, shouldn’t he/she at the very least consider President Obama’s agenda of attacking the energy sector and businesses large and small? If they love poverty they will love what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) intends to impose on America. If President Obama is re-elected, billions of dollars would be imposed on virtually every aspect of life in America, either directly or through the rise of the cost of everything. The greenhouse gas regulations would significantly raise the price of petrol(gas) at the pump and energy in the home. And under the Clean Air Act, churches, schools, restaurants, hospitals and farms will all eventually be regulated. All this reflects the Greens obsession with destroying the greatest economy the world has ever seen, its standard of living and the quality of life for every man, woman and child in America.

  • A. S.

    I’m sure there will be more excitement to come in the next two weeks and things could still swing decisively for one of the candidates, but, as uncomfortable as it is for a rabid right-winger (and proud to be) to say, I think the disastrous Obamessiah will still limp to victory.

  • Curnonsky

    Cameron backed Sarkozy and Obama – is this the Old Etonian Kiss of Death?

  • bloughmee

    Yes, it appears over for Mr. Obama. Not that Romney is much to speak of, but Obama’s clearly an incompetent, and it shows. He decided well over a year ago to run this negative smear machine campaign, and destroy any opponent. Problem is, you can’t destroy an opponent. Those have to destroy themselves, and Romney isn’t prone to do that, no matter his other failings.

    And so, once the public got a good look at Romney for themselves, and tuned-in to the campaign post-Labor Day, they began to ignore Obama’s negative dung heaping, and adjudge Romney for themselves. Since then, the numbers have gradually but steadily moved in Romney’s direction, once that adjudging process began to mature in early October. It was inevitable that the numbers would move against Obama, because he didn’t really run on any agenda for the next term. He ran on smearing Romney, and if that fell through, the emperor would be wearing no clothes.

    And now, Obama’s scrambling to get an agenda message out, 14 days before the election. But it’s too late. His year long strategerey is falling through. Somewhere, George W. Bush is smirking.

  • Robert_Eve

    We live in hope Fraser.

  • inhamsman

    I’m glad to read this. I’m in the UK now but saw Romney in action as Governor of Massachussets.He was an outstanding leader .
    I posted several times on other sites during the Republican primaries, stating that while every leader ‘in opposition’ has to play to the militants in his party, that Romney was a man of the solid centre- right (which a capitalist economy needs) and was far better qualified than his opponents and especially better qualified than Obama to be President. I thought then that he would beat Obama by 50 to 48 (2 to others) and would just scrape in in the Electoral College.I was appalled then by the response to anything supporting Romney, and this goes on even now in the mainstream media. The Telegraph group are among the worst offenders.
    I have no especial animus against Obama. I admire his personal story. But he never had the qualities to lead the USA, especially at a time of economic crisis. Now he has been found out.
    I stopped posting in the hope that I could come back and say I was right. Not quite yet, but almost!
    Beware however a sudden focus on ‘the danger of Mormonism’ in the last two weeks – it is the only weapon the Dems still have.

  • HooksLaw

    No matter who wins, the USA will be legally bound to do something (evein if its relatively a little) about its deficit. Obama has spent 4 years ‘doing stimulus’ to no great effect. An economic cliff beckons. There will be large defence cuts – its hard to see how the F35 will survive, though we must hope it does for our defence’s sake (and thats a defence procurement policy committed to by labour BTW).

  • CraigStrachan

    Sitting across the table last night from President Obama is as close to the presidency as Romney will ever get.

    • Augustus

      Considering the United States’ standing in the world has deteriorated at an alarming rate over
      the past four years, it does seem peculiar that Obama would be perceived as a preferable commander in chief by the general public. The only explanation for this is that
      Obama is a smooth liar. With uncanny ease he takes credit where it is not due,
      and shirks responsibility where it is. Obama claims that he was tough on the Iranian regime and its race for nuclear weapons. Listening
      to the appeasement king of the West assert that he laid down the law to the
      mullahs from day one, that his sanctions have been working, and that he will never allow Tehran to
      proceed towards completing the bomb, one might conceivably be lulled into
      forgetting what he has actually been doing about it.
      He abandoned the Iranian revolutionaries when they tried to topple President
      Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his ayatollahs. In the Summer of 2009 Ahmadinejad stole the election from opposition leader Mohammad Mousavi.
      Iranians of all walks of life took to the streets to protest. The Islamist
      regime arrested activists, gunned down demonstrators, and prevented the foreign press from covering the brutality. But, as the violence against the Iranian people increased, so did Obama’s pious rhetoric about not ‘meddling’. We have all seen what a ‘peaceful path’ Iran has taken
      since then. If Obama had the ‘best lines’ in a debate about his foreign policy ‘successes’ he ought to be in show business. But then, being in the business of show is his forte. This is what landed him
      in the White House in the first place.

      • DavidDP

        “We have all seen what a ‘peaceful path’ Iran has taken ”
        If only they were like Iraq, that would have been so much better.
        The lack of meddling is a plus for Obama as C-in-C – thanks to the disasterous Iraq war, the US public are increasingly sceptical of military action and weary of the US being pulled in to every reginal conflict. Sure, they like manifest destiny, but currently not at the current costs.
        Which is why the drones work well – not boots on the ground, no prospect of casualties or being bogged down unable to leave. And, thus, the increased use under Obama also helps to burnish his C-in-C credentials.
        FInally, none of this really matters any way, since a Romney presidency will pursue pretty much the same foreign policy as an Obama one.

        • Augustus

          “… none of this really matters any way, since a Romney presidency will pursue pretty much the same foreign policy as an Obama one.”
          Other than four more years of a presidency that actually encourages Islamic militancy, or a challenger who is on record as saying he will support Israel in its effort to avoid nuclear annihilation. But I take your point that it is not the Western way to think a war can go on forever. Unfortunately, the world is divided into the House of Islam and the House of War, and strictly speaking a perpetual state of jihad, of holy war, is imposed by the law, even if this law also provides that the jihad might be interrupted by truces when appropriate.

    • John

      You will be very embarrassed by that post on November 6. I can’t stress highly enough how wrong you are. Romney is going to win by a landslide.

  • BillRees

    “Everyone knows Obama is great with words.”

    Maybe I don’t count as “everyone”, because Obama has struck me as being great with words in prepared speeches, but not so hot with words in debates.
    Last night he seemed determined to come out with some pre-prepared ‘zingers’, some of which seemed misplaced within the debate.
    He appeared petulant and anxious. Romney was steadier, more statesmanlike and more thoughtful. I think that’s the winning formula in relation to style. As for substance, I don’t think either man made a winning impression. But now it looks as though Romney is in the driving seat.

  • London Calling

    closer than ever to the president….more like….:)

  • DavidDP

    Romney’s foreign policy will be exactly the same as Obama’s. Same drone strikes, same relationships, same everything. The detail (such as it is) rather than the froth shows hardly a cigareet paper between the two of them. Utterly pointless debate.

    • cindy

      no, you are wrong.
      The economy will benefit a lot and foreign policy will be much stronger

      • DavidDP

        Romeny’s foreign policy, the actual detail of it, not the grandstanding in the press, it almost exactly the same as Obama. Take Iran – in the press, it’s about how weak Obama is being. The detail? Well, er, continue with sanctions and not take any options off the table. No difference……

    • HooksLaw

      Obama’s foreign policy was – ‘close Guantanamo within a year.’

      Its still there. A Romney foreign policy would not fall that short.

      • DavidDP

        Romney will close Guantanamo? Where has he said that?

  • AndyinBrum

    Although independents had Obama winning by about 50/23 I think.

  • HooksLaw

    ‘fewer horses and bayonets’ is in fact a fair remark.
    In this country we here endless moaning about cutting 5000 soldiers, but we are building 2 giant aircraft carriers and buying exotic and advanced planes to fly off them. This gives a vast increase in capability.
    A new squadron of drones is about to start flying over Afghanistan and being controlled from Lincolnshire.

    Myself, I would not build the carriers as specified or buy the F35s, but it cannot be denied it is a vast increase in offensive power.

  • Swiss Bob

    Voting is already underway and Obama is ahead on exit polling so it doesn’t look like Romney has much chance.

    Four more years of Obama.

    • John

      Romney will win the election by 50 ECV, minimum. More like 70.

      • Swiss Bob

        I’m impressed by your confidence but that’s not what the polls say and I repeat (even though the polls have moved towards Romney) voting is already underway and Obama is apparently in the lead.

        NB This is my informed opinion not an expression of support for Obama.

        • Curnonsky

          Exit polls? The only voting underway now is by mail.

        • John

          Instead of paying attention to the Ministry of Truth MSM, I’ve been watching what’s happening on the ground. Six months ago, I thought Bathhouse Barry would walk it, and wrote as much on here. But then I scratched the surface of this election process, and realised how wrong I was, thankfully. Anyone who thinks Obama is going to win will be in for a massive shock on November 6. Romney won this election months ago. He is by no means the ideal candidate – who the hell ever is? But he’s a much better bet than Bathhouse Barry, who has been appalling, and would just get worse.

          Ignore the polls – they’re next to useless. Ignore the ridiculous, endless, shilling for Obama from the Ministry of Truth. Romney will be the next POTUS. Nailed on.

  • Archimedes

    Looks like Romney has just edged ahead on RCP’s electoral count. Still, Romney will have to fight pretty hard to win over the remaining toss-ups.

  • Kevin

    Everyone knows Obama is great with words.

    Obama’s use of words is notoriously “not optimal.

    What is not entirely clear to voters is that Mitt Romney isn’t evil.

    Right. Because he’s the one who has put baby-killing at the top of his re-election agenda.

  • Jez

    You made your own mind up Fraser from an unbiased standpoint.
    Some actual real journalism.
    The second debate, the CNN’s Candy Crowley who was moderating intervened on the side of Obama regards Libya and the attack on 9/11 this year. This stumped Romney but lost Obama ground with the general public maybe. This along with Obama, guns blazing with his ‘47%’ attack towards Mitt- just at the cut-off bell, although tactically brilliant, may have left a sour taste with the viewers who want answers not political game playing.
    The trend has inexorably moved Romney’s way.
    The left and the liberal commentators on here (and in the rest of the MSM) have to wake up and realise that if they want to win (anything) then they must even eliminate the slightest gaps in their rigged and edited onslaught against anything they percieve not as the same ideology they promote. If you portray someone constantly 100% as a demon- then you have to for a tiny fraction have a live feed, an unedited and non-manipulated peice of media such as these debates then unfortunately it is yourselves who are exposed as being the sort of people that you are. To you, this will equate as negative PR, hostility and a surge of real support for the people you are attempting to undermine. Probably.
    The left wing media here has to now go ‘full on’ if they want to come through this and dominantly drive their political and social agendas into each and everyones front rooms.
    No live debates, even more liberal / hard left indoctrination in the schools, more social networking arrests and imprisonments. You have to constantly bombard everyone with the information you feel they must take in, riducule then undermine and ultimately criminalise any counter opinion. Make people feel even more scared at speaking freely.
    Just a bit of advice that.

    • bloughmee

      …and you’re the first for the gulag, when it opens up, my friend.

      You, with your snarky scoff at our leftist magnificence. You first for the gulag.

      • Jez

        I can well imagine pal. I can very well imagine. x

  • Bob Hutton

    I don’t get excited about the US election, or any election, for one simple reason – the leaders of nations have been fore-ordained by God. Romans 13 v 1 clearly states that the ruling authorities have been appointed by God.

    • HooksLaw

      Leaders are fore-ordained by votes.
      For what its worth the modern Bible says that authorities have been established by God, not appointed. Again for what it is worth the verse is pointing out that Christians cannot by-pass the rule of law by saying that they can only obey God and not the rule of law.

      The verse is saying the opposite of what you imply.

      • Bob Hutton

        Mr “HooksLaw”, it is a pity you don’t give your name but whatever you decide to call yourself you have mis-represented the Word of God. Romans 13 v 1 clearly teaches that God has appointed/ordained the “powers that be”. I suggest you read the original greek.
        When it somes to obeying the authorities it is right to be obedient unless a law of man conrtradicts the law of God – read Acts 5 v 29

  • Klint

    Careful Fraser, you’re beginning to sound like you’re excited at the prospect of Romney as President.

    • starfish

      Can’t have that can we?
      BTW has the Grauniad decided yet how these damned yankees should vote?

    • Fraser Nelson

      I’m not excited by either of them.

      • Jez

        Close one there Fraser… good recovery.

      • dalai guevara

        Just like the Cameron Milliband conumdrum, then. Merkel OTOH is certain to be reelected – the only leader of the western world after the CDS crisis hit us all.

      • Hexhamgeezer

        You don’t need to be. We just need that glib stand-up out of the White House.
        Just imagine – a President that doesn’t bow down to Saudi Wahabis
        Exciting? No – refreshing? Yes

        • telemachus

          Back to racial concerns.
          Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize for befriending the Arabs

          • Simon Gothard

            The Arabs don’t want befriending. They want to dominate and subjugate.

          • Simon Gothard

            P.s. you twat.

      • HooksLaw

        I think you are right not to be excited by either, but in terms of who might win it seems surely that there would have to be a massive drop in confidence in Obama for him to lose. Romney has much to do with in the swing states.

        What has been strangely absent from the whole process has been the presence of the famous ‘mo’. No one seems to have it.

        But leaving all that aside, the important performance is that of the Republican Party in the House and Senate races. If they control the Congress then Obama is neutered. Romney is not at the moment pulling the rug from under his own party, so there is still much to play for.

      • an ex-tory voter

        Nor am I, but i am terrified by one of them and it isn’t Mitt Romney.

      • Cindy

        no matter what, things must take a new direction
        People are tired

      • Steerage

        Fraser – Are you sure weren’t one of those politicians, including the PM and Boris, and most journalists, including the Daily Telegraph and especially the BBC, who dissed Romney mercilessly on his London visit? Remember Romney only repeated when he had read in the British press and heard on the BBC about the Olympics problems.
        All of the above carpers will soon be desperate to say they only meant well and want desperately a special relationship with the new President.
        I sincerely hope he tells them all to F. off, especially the Foreign Secretary when he tries to draw the US into the Syrian debacle on the Sunni side.

  • anyfool

    At last a report by a reporter who has actually listened to the debate, could be a good start to the important part of the race.

    • telemachus

      Before giving Romney any benefit of the doubt remember his international tour and his bent to privilege.

      Romney is super-privileged and ultra-rich—and until last night did not bother hiding that fact.

      This is the man who said, “I’m not concerned about the very poor.”

      It was in fact meant to focus on foreign policy

      In his visit to Israel Romney spouted his real views. He said Israel’s economic success compared to the Palestinians was due to “cultural” differences and the “hand of providence”.

      Romney lauds the hundreds of billions of US economic and military aid to Israel and the murderous siege of Gaza and 70 years of occupation.

      • anyfool

        On his international tour.
        On the Olympics he just commented on what the MSM were lying and hoping for, ie. the Olympics were heading for disaster.
        Romney is super-privileged and ultra-rich.
        Does not make him stupid.
        “I’m not concerned about trying to persuade people who were never going to vote for him. no mention of poor.
        Right but framed it badly.
        “cultural” differences and the “hand of providence”.
        forget the hand of providence as they both believe in that sort of thing. so what else is it but cultural differences, Israelis are an actual race who have through hard work transformed a small arid space into a modern country, the Palestinians are an amalgam of people who have allowed themselves to manipulated by a bunch of murderous trash who have no interest in their well being, being non Arab they were up until the Gulf War were treated worse than animals by Kuwaitis and others like them, money stolen, women sexually assaulted and treated as slaves, is that what people like you want for these people.

        • telemachus

          Oh dear
          Where to start.
          Well let us begin with the brave Palestinians who as you say are abused by all.
          However the biggest abuse was the displacement by the European migrations of the last century.
          In pursuit of which they tried to bomb their neighbours to glory in 3 successive wars

          • anyfool

            The area now called Palestine was an administrative area of the Ottoman Empire up until they backed the wrong side in the First World War. so spoils of war never a country, the so called Palestinians have no historic claim to the area unlike the Jews who have been there since time immemorial, if what The Bible states is true.
            Oh, by the way you have still not answered my question of, Would you like your family to be subjected to rule or control by Muslims.

      • Frank P

        Oh do fuck off, you crazy bubble ‘n’ squeak! I usually refrain from feeding the troll, but this time – SHOO!

      • johan berger

        Obama’s international ‘tours’ in Africa e.g. never gave HIM any benefit – merely negligence when their leaders discovered he was a hack with no experience outside ideology/racebaiting! As for Romney’s remarks on differing cultures between Israel and Palestinians they were SPOT ON. Israel left Gaza seven years ago creating ample time for the Arabs there to build their own nation.. Their ‘leadership’ never deviated from their Jew hatred and turned the place into a launching site for ROCKETS against Sderot!!
        The socalled seventy years of ‘occupation’ is utter hogwash. Go read Alan Dershowitz’ The Case for Israel’ in which ALL relevant aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict is dealt with!!

Can't find your Web ID? Click here