Tim Dunkin: Romney Sealed the Deal in the Third Debate

Barring a major November surprise or other election-shaking event, I believe that Mitt Romney will be the next President of the United States of America. I can draw this conclusion from the confluence of a number of indicators that seem to be coming together under the broad rubric of “Mittmentum” and are suggesting not just a Romney victory, but a fairly substantial one at that. For instance, there is the fact of Romney's large and steadily expanding lead among independent voters, who have swung decisively away from Obama, compared to his lead among them in 2008. Then, you have the fact that Romney enjoys a huge advantage among white voters (still, despite the demographic doomsayers, by far the largest and most consistent voting bloc in the electorate), enough of a lead, indeed, that extrapolating from previous Republican leads among this demographic suggests that Romney could garner as much as a 54-55% popular vote victory. Romney has all but erased the “gender gap” that traditionally helps Democrat candidates. All of these together are contributing to the burning down of Obama's electoral vote “firewall” - Ohio is now tied, he's all but lost Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, and Colorado, and even second-tier Obama firewall states like New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Wisconsin show definite signs of falling to the Romney wave. At this point, I think it's fairly safe to talk about 300 electoral votes as being Romney's basement.

The debates are what largely made this happen. Not just the first debate, in which Romney crushed Obama like an eggshell, but the other two as well, especially the final debate last Monday about foreign policy.

I will grant that the third debate was an example of the typical type of “caretaker” debate that we've grown used to over the past few decades – the type of debate where one candidate or the other may garner a slight win on points or using rhetorical gimmicks, but neither candidate really outdoes the other considerably in the “wow” department. I will even admit that, on theatrical points alone, Obama probably won the third debate, ever so slightly. Certainly, Romney did not earn the crushing victory that he did in the first debate.

Yet, the third debate was Romney's on substance. While he may not have enjoyed an opponent who looked like he was on some kind of depressive drug, and while he may not have gotten “zingers” in on the President, nevertheless, Romney provided to voters a picture of substance, of thoughtfulness, and most importantly, of presidentiality. Romney's main objective in these debates had to be to show that he could be President, that he was serious, that he possessed the leadership, knowledge, and wisdom for the office. This is what he did last Monday.

As I noted before when I first switched to Romney from Virgil Goode (the Constitution Party candidate), the main role of the President, constitutionally, is federative. The President deals with those things that are not the realm of the states, and indeed are largely denied to the states by the Constitution, which largely center around aspects of our nation's foreign policy. Whether we're talking about his role in representing the United States to the larger world outside our borders, or negotiating treaties and other agreements with foreign powers, or acting in his role as Commander-in-Chief in times where our military is engaging these other powers in armed conflict, these issues are the main concern of the office of the Presidency – not “reforming” health care or providing funds to “green” energy businesses, or overseeing various aspects of domestic policy with “czars.”

This all being said, what the respective candidates for this office say and think about issues of foreign and military policy takes on added importance. Indeed, of the three debates, the third one was the most pertinent, as far as dealing with why we would elect one or the other as President. Granted, the bills that a President will veto or sign is important, as are the nominations he will present to the Senate for the various judiciary offices. But when you get right down to it, the President's job is to interact with other powers and to lead our military in times of conflict.

What voters saw last Monday was a study in contrasts. In President Obama, voters saw a caricature of the gravity that should infuse one holding the chief executive office. They saw a man who not only acted foolish and immature with his constant interruptions and blatant lying, but who also clearly demonstrated that he does not have the seriousness of ideology or concern for the nation to deserve a second term on the job. They saw a man who mocked the idea of maintaining a strong Navy to protect our nation's interests and home shores. Voters viewed a man who would rather smirk and laugh and crack wise about “horses and bayonets” than engage in a serious discussion about what is needed to keep our citizens safe from foreign aggressors.

To many Americans, and certainly to the majority of those who have been paying attention throughout, this was no surprise. Obama is, after all, the President who has worked to ruin our relationships with our closest allies, as well as with friendly potential regional partners around the world. He has soured our special relationship with the United Kingdom, he unilaterally backed out of signed agreements with eastern European allies like Poland and the Czech Republic, he has all but abandoned Japan to the Chinese, and he has fumbled American efforts to enhance our relationship with India. In place of these, he has hinted to the Russians that he would have more leeway to work with them in undercutting American policies and interests in Europe after being re-elected, he has garnered accolades from dictators like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, and he has pushed away Israel while dawdling long enough to allow Iran to almost certainly obtain nuclear weapons.

And still, after nearly two months, this President cannot present a coherent picture of what he and his administration were doing or not doing about the Benghazi attackon September 11. Worse, it has become apparent that despite having the opportunity to rescue our people, he and his cronies chose not to, and indeed, left American diplomatic and military personnel behind, betraying their trust. We are still supplying weapons to Islamist groups in Syria so they can overthrow that government and institute an Islamist-dominated system, just like they did in Libya and Egypt. At every turn, the present occupant of the Oval Office has acted in ways that are contrary to our national interest.

In stark contrast to this, the voters who watched the third debate saw Mitt Romney at his best. Even though Romney is more of an “economics guy,” it was readily apparent that Romney has a broad knowledge of the issues involved with contemporary foreign policy and military issues. In one sense, what Romney was saying about the need for a modernized Navy with more ships able to fulfill specialized roles is nothing that the Navy itself hasn't been saying for years – not that anyone in the current administration has listened. Romney's answers to the questions posed to him were fluid and fluent. It was apparent that this was a many who took the role of the President seriously and has done his homework. This is a man who will not sell out allies like Israel and the United Kingdom. This is a man who won't use military force as a cover for poor polling numbers. This is a man who genuinely means it when he says he wants a strong America. You could see it in his eyes, the furrow of concern in his brow when responding to questions about the weaknesses America currently exhibits to the world.

Equally as important was Romney's stress on the word “peace.” In modern parliance, “peace” has become a codeword for “treason,” for undermining American forces in the field and blaming America at home. Romney worked to redefine this term back to its original sense, that of a lack of conflict, implicitly caused by a wise, even-handed, and thoughful foreign policy approach. Romney handily dispelled in the minds of many voters the image that Obama and the Democrats had been trying to tag him with, that he would be “just another” rowdy, gun-slinging Republican cowboy looking to toss missiles around all over the world. Not so, said Romney. Instead, he specifically identified the role model for his foreign policy approach as Ronald Reagan, who despite the attempts at revisionism by leftists in a later decade, was actually fairly sparing in his use of American force overseas, reserving it for places where he felt there was a legitimate national interest at stake which could not be resolved with diplomacy alone. Remember, it wasn't Reagan who sent troops for years on end to Kosovo and Bosnia, or who invaded Haiti when no national interest was at stake, or who was bombing Sudanese aspirin factories when his scandals were getting too much front-page attention. Romney, like Reagan, understands that to have peace means you need to be strong. “When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace.” (Luke 11:21) He also understands that to have strength carries with it the responsibility of wisely using that strength.

This is something Obama does not understand. Instead, the current President simultaneously seeks to fritter away and reduce American strength, while throwing what little we have remaining all over the place in ways that do nothing to keep American safe. Why are we sending weapons to Islamists in Syria and Libya? Why do we have troops in Jordan, poised along the Syrian border, where they are ripe for being used to intervene to overthrow the present regime? Why are we destabilizing our own southern border by running guns to Mexican drug cartels so that they can kill their own citizens, as well as American border patrol agents?


People watching the third debate saw a clear choice. They saw one man who creates, but cannot answer, the questions above. They saw another man who will work to keep America strong, yet judicious and sparing in her use of our force. We can talk about gender gaps and shares of the vote from different demographic groups, but when you get right down to it, what sealed the deal for Mitt Romney was that third debate, where the American people saw the carefully built caricature created by the Democrats crumble, and saw the face of a true leader who will act in their best interests. Romney sealed the deal that night, and I believe that once the votes are counted and all those “undecideds” out there have broken his way, we will see President Romney come January of 2013.