Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Why Mitt held fire at debate

By Ana Navarro, CNN Contributor
updated 5:36 AM EDT, Thu October 25, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ana Navarro: Obama won foreign policy debate; agreeable Romney was strategic
  • She says Romney held back on Benghazi, Israel criticism to seem less aggressive
  • She says it worked; he may not have landed blows, but looked presidential
  • Navarro: The good news: election only two weeks away. The bad news? Same thing

Editor's note: Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist and commentator, served as national Hispanic campaign chairwoman for John McCain in 2008 and national Hispanic co-chair for Jon Huntsman's 2012 campaign. Follow her on Twitter @ananavarro.

(CNN) -- The three presidential debates are over. The last debate, earlier this week is the last time we will see these two candidates debate each other (unless they go into the paid speaking circuit some time in the future and are handsomely remunerated to do it all for show). It is the last time we will see Barack Obama on a presidential debate stage. And in my eyes, he won this last debate.

In large part, he was helped by the authority he carries as president. It's one thing to debate the foreign policy decisions you would make if you were commander in chief. It's another to do so when you are the commander in chief. In the foreign policy debate, the candidates did not enter or leave the room as equals.

Ana Navarro
Ana Navarro

The morning of the debate the Obama campaign released a foreign-policy-themed TV ad portraying Mitt Romney as a trigger-happy, twitchy-fingered cowboy. The ad's purpose was to make a comparison between the candidates and offer voters a clear choice. But in the debate hall; the choice became a lot less clear.

For a good chunk of the debate, we heard Mitt Romney agree with President Obama and President Obama sarcastically tell Mitt Romney how happy he was they agreed. It bordered on theater of the absurd. It happened too many times for this to have been a coincidence. Now Romney even agreed with Obama's timeline for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Make no mistake about it, it was part of the Romney strategy. He was trying to get through the night without antagonizing war-weary American voters. He defused the Obama caricature of Romney, the war-monger. Instead, we saw Mitt Romney channel John Lennon. He came dangerously close to leading us in the chorus of " Give Peace a Chance."

In this debate peace process, Romney allowed Obama to go unscathed on several issues which could have led to heated exchanges. Romney flailed at the air without landing a blow on the circumstances surrounding the assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the assassination of four Americans there. He did not press Obama on what even to the untrained eye is a less than warm and cuddly relationship with Israel, our strongest ally in the region and an issue many Jewish voters in swing-state Florida care about. This tells us Romney is feeling fairly confident about winning Florida and he did not want to come across as the aggressor.

Strickland: Obama has been clear on jobs
Campaigns micro-target undecided voters
Romney camp slams 'glossy panic button'
Candidates prepare for final debate

Romney's strategy worked. Polls show most Americans agree Obama edged him out in this last debate, but they also show most Americans believe he is qualified to be commander in chief. That's all Romney had to do. Do no harm to himself, and pass the test. He did both.

President Obama also did what he had to do. He won the debate. Unfortunately for him, fewer people watched the third debate than watched the first two. The first debate had deep repercussions. Obama was about to wrap it all up. Republicans were pessimistic. A Romney loss was seeming likely. All that changed with President Obama's disastrous performance. Though he won the second debate, he did not make up that lost ground. It is unlikely this third debate will be a reverse game changer either. Presidential debates are not like tennis; you don't get a freebie second serve if the first one hits the net or lands outside the lines.

That leaves this race pretty much in the same place we were before this week's debate. The match is very close but the ball is in Romney's court. Though I do not underestimate Romney's ability to make an unforced error, momentum and the clock may be on his side.

Between now and Election Day we will see Romney and Obama criss-cross America, barn-storming through the battleground sates. We will hear the same stump speeches over and over again until our ears bleed. The good news is, the election is only two weeks away. The bad news is, the election is two weeks away.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ana Navarro.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:30 PM EST, Sun December 28, 2014
Les Abend: Before we reach a conclusion on the outcome of AirAsia Flight QZ8501, it's important to understand that the details are far too limited to draw a parallel to Flight 370
updated 8:27 PM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
updated 11:17 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
updated 10:05 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
updated 8:03 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
updated 6:27 PM EST, Sat December 27, 2014
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT