Analysis: Romney Plays It Safe in Foreign Policy Debate

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 24, 2012 | Go to article overview

Analysis: Romney Plays It Safe in Foreign Policy Debate


Byline: Ralph Z. Hallow, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

In the eyes of many of his strongest supporters, Mitt Romney actually won Monday night in Boca Raton by losing his foreign-policy debate with President Obama.

Many Republicans and conservatives were grinding their teeth as they watched Mr. Romney bypass numerous opportunities in Florida to hit Mr. Obama on his administration's security failures and days of misstatements over the Benghazi disaster.

But in declining the openings to revisit the disputed and confused Libya claims made by the president and his administration and allies in the press, Mr. Romney avoided giving the press and the Democrats a stick with which to continue beating him, GOP strategists say.

In the second debate, Mr. Romney criticized the president for failing for more than a week to acknowledge that the Benghazi consulate incident was not part of a spontaneous protest over an anti-Muslim video but a terrorist attack.

During that debate, CNN moderator Candy Crowley notably chimed in to claim Mr. Romney was wrong.

Afterwards, much of the press coverage treated the moderator's correction as an article of truth. As late as Monday afternoon, a TV news anchor referred to Mr. Romney's infamous Libya flub on who said and did what in the days following the orchestrated attack that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

To try to re-litigate Benghazi would have done [Mr. Romney] no good, GOP campaign consultant Floyd Ciruli said. It would have let the press say he's out on the far right with the right-wing conspiracy advocates. The press will not let him win on the issue.

Most important, analysts said, the Republican nominee took a well-calculated risk - that in disappointing the more hawkish members of his base, he would win over more undecideds.

He took a small risk in disappointing the more hawkish among his supporters by assuaging the fear of some undecideds and soft Romney supporters that he is a warmonger and that somehow he would take the country into a radically different direction, said conservative campaign consultant Brett A. …

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