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Third Debate: Strategies Obama And Romney Should Employ

Tyler Talgo |
October 22, 2012 | 8:12 a.m. PDT


(Barack Obama, Creative Commons)
(Barack Obama, Creative Commons)
In tonight’s foreign policy debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, there will likely be less viewers than the previous two because the economy remains the centerpiece of this election. But the developing details of the Benghazi story, and whether or not there was a cover-up by the Obama administration, will definitely make this showdown interesting, to say the least. The timing of this controversy is unfortunate for President Obama, and the amount of time spent by the candidates discussing this issue may determine the winner of the debate.

Here is what I would advise both candidates to do Monday night:


  • Don’t dodge the Benghazi issue. Make an early statement about it, but be honest and come out clean. Put the matter to bed by giving Romney something he cannot counter, and don’t make news by creating more controversy. You must prove to Americans that his administration takes this attack seriously. The key is to prevent this issue from being the topic of the night and to spend as little time on it as possible.
  • Talk about the dismantling of Al-Qaeda that has occurred under your time in office. Cite the historical killing of Osama Bin Laden, but don’t use him as a political football. Your Administration in four years authorized six times the amount of drone strikes that the Bush Administration did in eight, and they resulted in more than four times the number of enemy deaths. You must make it clear that these drone strikes were effective in taking down other top Al-Qaeda leaders, like Anwar Al-Awlaki.
  • Push your plan to bring the troops home from Afghanistan and how you were able to end the war in Iraq. This is a popular viewpoint among the majority of Americans, and you should convince voters that you are the candidate who is less likely to start another war.
  • Don’t be soft on Iran; be clear about how you will prevent President Ahmadinejad from obtaining nuclear weapons without the use of force. Many Jewish voters are switching to Romney because he is seen as the pro-Israel candidate. Don’t give them more of a reason to vote for him.


  • Be bold and aggressive about the facts of the Benghazi attack. Evidence exists that the Obama Administration covered up the attack on our consulate for political gain and new information reveals that Ambassador Stevens may have been responsible for providing weapons to Libyan rebels and terrorist groups. You didn’t know all the facts and the timeline of events in the last debate, where you had a perfect opportunity to slam Obama and moderator Candy Crowley for not telling the truth. No matter how much you have to break the debate rules, you must keep bringing every discussion back to this controversy. The more time spent pressing Obama on the Benghazi issue, the better.
  • Expose the Arab Spring as a consequence of Obama's foreign policy, and explain how you would promote peaceful transitions of power without aiding our enemies.
  • Be pro-military without coming off as a neo-con. Americans don’t want to get into another war, but we also don’t want Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. You need to clearly distinguish yourself as the pro-Israel candidate and convince more Jewish voters to sway to your side.
  • Obama rarely talks about China. Be tough on China and explain how we pay the price when they manipulate their currency. A prosperous economy is vital for a strong foreign policy.
  • Don’t be afraid of exposing how political correctness is weakening America: The Obama Administration pulled references to Islam from terror training materials in the fear that Muslim groups would be offended, and when Major Nidal Hasan killed 13 soldiers and wounded 32 more on American soil while shouting “Allahu Akbar” in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, Obama refused to call it a terrorist attack and instead labeled it as “workplace violence.” Explain how a Romney Administration wouldn’t apologize for American Exceptionalism.

Gallup’s latest 7-day tracking poll among likely voters reports Romney at 51 percent and Obama at only 45 percent. No candidate in Gallup's history has ever recovered from a 51 to 45 percent polling gap this late in October and gone on to win the election; not to mention that it’s an incumbent president in this case. Obama needs a chance to get back in the race, and Romney needs one last final blow. Even though most voters have decided whom they support, the debate will definitely have an impact among partisan morale, which is absolutely vital in increasing base turnout.


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