Entries in Presidential Debate (26)


Whoppers, Bayonets and Zingers in Final Presidential Debate

Marc Serota/Getty Image(BOCA RATON, Fla.) -- President Obama was on the offensive during the third and final presidential debate Monday night, hitting Mitt Romney for shifting on foreign policy positions and pointedly telling Romney, "Every time you've offered an opinion you've been wrong."

Romney agreed with Obama during much of the debate that concentrated on foreign policy, but had sharp words for the president on the Middle East, saying the president "wasted these four years" by failing to stop Iran's nuclear program and allowing the Middle East to descend into "tumult."

He congratulated Obama on tracking and killing al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, but added, "We can't kill our way out of this mess."

The president at one point defended his tenure, saying flatly, "America is stronger now than when I came into office."

See the full debate transcript HERE.

Meeting at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., the two candidates sat at a table next to each other and across from moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News, an arrangement that allowed for less of the dramatic finger pointing and circling that made for fireworks in last week's matchup in New York.

There were, however, plenty of zingers.

When Romney accused the president of cutting back on military spending by noting the U.S. Navy had fewer ships today than in World War I, Obama shot back: "Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed."

He also said in an almost derisive tone, "We also have things called aircraft carriers that planes land on and submarines that go under water."

Schieffer said Monday night's debates comes on the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's address to the nation on the Cuban Missile Crisis when the U.S. and Russia were on the verge of nuclear war. It also took place just over a month since Islamic terrorists attacked the U.S. consulate in Libya, killing four, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the U.N. that Iran is less than a year away from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Obama, who has made the killing of bin Laden a cornerstone of his campaign, attacked Romney for failing to recognize the threat al Qaeda continues to present to the peace and security of the United States.

"Gov. Romney, I'm glad that you recognize 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....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," Obama sniped.

Romney responded with his own venom, reminding the president he was caught late last year on an open mic telling the Russians he would have more flexibility following the election.

"Russia does continue to battle us in the U.N. time and time again. I have clear eyes on this. I'm not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia, or Mr. Putin. And I'm certainly not going to say to him, I'll give you more flexibility after the election," Romney said. He said that Putin would face "more backbone."

Romney said, as he did in the earlier debates, that Obama began his administration by going on an "apology tour" to Arab countries. This time, Obama was ready for him.

"Nothing Gov. Romney just said is true, starting with this notion of me apologizing. This has been probably the biggest whopper that's been told during the course of this campaign," the president said.

But for much of the debate Romney struck a softer tone Monday night than he has in recent weeks, both in his demeanor and the policies which he was advocating. Romney, who scored points for being aggressive in the first debate, and advocated a hawkish foreign policy in the first months of the campaign, Monday said America should spread its influence in the world not through its military but through soft-power diplomatic solutions.

"We don't want another Iraq, we don't want another Afghanistan," Romney said, adding that investment in Muslim countries would help stem the rise of Islamic extremism.

The two men at times seemed to agree as much they disagreed. Both said they would stand with Israel if it were attacked by Iran, and both say they will withdraw troops from Afghanistan by 2014.

President Obama called the restive civil war in Syria "heartbreaking," but said the U.S. should not send troops into the conflagration. Romney essentially agreed, but said the U.S. should send weapons to the insurgents.

Obama noted that he had ended the war in Iraq and was scaling back troop deployments in Afghanistan.

"After a decade of war we have to do some nation building here at home," he said.

Locked in a virtual dead heat, the candidates at times turned to the domestic issues -- particularly the economy and jobs -- they believe both distinguish them from each other and about which voters are more worried.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Who Won? Political Analysts on the Final Presidential Debate

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(BOCA RATON, Fla.) -- The final presidential debate on foreign policy appeared to be a win for President Obama, but a successful effort by Republican nominee Mitt Romney to return the conversation to the economy, ABC News political analysts said.

“The president won tonight,” said ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd.  “Here’s why: I think they both came in with different agendas, but the president was more successful.”

Dowd, who was a chief strategist in George W. Bush’s re-election campaign, said that for Obama, the debate was a “commander-in-chief’s test” of who would be more decisive and strong as president.  But Romney’s goal was to come across as a moderate who voters can trust.

ABC News contributor Donna Brazile, a veteran Democratic strategist, said that Romney’s lack of experience on the world stage showed in this debate.  And Obama’s advantage of already being in the role of commander-in-chief dominated the session.

“First of all Mitt Romney couldn’t talk about foreign policy because he hasn’t been there and hasn’t traveled enough to understand what’s going on.  I thought President Obama was strong, he was clear.  He knows the threats.  He’s dealt with the threats,” Brazile said.

ABC News analyst Nicolle Wallace, who was a top aide to Republican Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential race, said that Romney successfully shifted the conversation to the ground that he was more comfortable debating on: the economy.

“The debate on the economy seemed to take President Obama by surprise,” Wallace said.  “Once he caught on, by 10:15 he was groaning on about tires.”

“The sure sign to me it was a win by the Romney campaign is they pulled Obama into a debate about the economy which they feel like is their strong suit,” Wallace said.

In the end, however, this foreign policy debate, which frequently meandered into domestic subjects like the auto bailout, education and entitlements, may be the one least remembered by voters, conservative columnist and ABC News analyst George Will said.

“Tonight you saw two men who don’t really disagree all that much talking about subjects concerning that which voters don’t really care that much,” Will said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Undecided ‘Walmart Moms’ in Florida Give Win to Obama

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Out of a focus group of 10 “Walmart moms” in Orlando, Fla., eight gave the win to Obama in the third and final presidential debate.  One woman gave the win to Romney, and another said she felt as though it was a tie.

The group, which was organized by Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis and sponsored by Walmart, had mostly positive words for Obama after Monday night’s debate: good, focused, honest, strategic.

There was one woman who had a negative reaction -- she said that after Monday night’s debate she felt “horrible” about Obama.  The reason?  On Monday, she said, she thought Obama had the opportunity to say something new, but he said the same thing.

“I’m all for something new,” she said.  “Don’t blame other people for the last four years.”

On the whole, however, these women thought that it was Obama who appeared to provide the better answers.

“I think Obama won this debate.  He answered precisely and detailed,” said one woman who identified herself as an immigrant from Cuba.

“I thought he had more solid answers, I thought that he was well-spoken,” said another woman.  “I felt like Romney left me with that feeling that he was defensive, it felt more childish, and more stereotypical.”

When asked how they felt about Romney after Monday night’s debate, the response was mostly negative.

“I think he’s a hypocrite,” said one woman.  “Obama called him out on something and he couldn’t… back it up.  It’s too all over the place.”

“I think Obama had a lot more real life, realistic experiences.  He can relate to the people he’s met on the street, or the people he’s talked to -- he makes that effort, he takes that time,” one woman said.  “The only thing that I keep thinking about with Romney is a beauty pageant.”

“I think he missed the opportunity that could have been me deciding to say, ‘I’m voting for Mitt Romney,’” another woman said.

Overwhelmingly, the women in the group said that they believed Obama addressed the issue of women’s equality much more than Romney.  But one woman did voice a complaint about the Democratic party’s messaging throughout the campaign.

“The Obama campaign and Democrats want to act like the most important issues to women are birth control pills and abortion.  That’s not what matters to me,” the woman said.

So did the debate “move the needle”?  There was a little movement in the room.  One of the participants -- the woman who said that the debate made her feel “horrible” about Obama -- said she’s decided to go with Romney.  Another woman who had come into this undecided said that she was “pretty much” going to go with Obama.  “He’s more personable,” she said.

But in general, a lot of these women still seemed either undecided, or open to a change of opinion.

What both Romney and Obama apparently failed to do Monday night was convince these women that they understand and are addressing their concerns as mothers.  When asked if they felt that either candidate was addressing their concerns as parents, the response on the whole was a resounding no.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Wins Twitter War with ‘Horses and Bayonets’

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- President Obama won Monday night’s Twitter war with the weapons of yore, replying to Mitt Romney’s complaint that the Navy will soon see its smallest fleet since 1917 by saying, “We also have fewer horses and bayonets.”

“We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them,” Obama cheekily informed Romney. "We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”

But even as the Republican challenger’s advisers tried to bounce the “zinger” back at the president — top aide Stu Stevens called the line demeaning to the military — Twitter sprung into meme-making mode.

By 9:45 p.m. ET, the microblog was seeing 105,767 tweets per minute (out of 6.5 million total) reporting or riffing on Obama’s taunt. More than a half hour after the debate, #horsesandbayonets was still going strong, trending worldwide.

Esquire politics writer Charlie Pierce chimed in to list “things we also have fewer of,” among them: “pikes, blunderbusses, flintlocks, and stone knives.”

Within minutes, @RomneyBinders, a creation of Romney’s boast during the previous debate that, as Massachusetts governor, he had picked his female cabinet officers from “binders full of women,” changed its handle to @HorsesBayonette. The merged account had more than 34,200 followers by midnight.

By 11 p.m., the rest of the Internet was playing catch up, vaulting “horses and bayonets” to the top of Google’s “Top 5 Rising Searches” list, right ahead of “Syria” and “drones.”

Tumblr got moving a little later, with appearing and beginning to aggregate some of the more clever memes that had been accumulating on the web.

“The Most Interesting Man in The World” made a late appearance on the site. “I don’t always fight wars,” the often-spoofed Dos Equis beer ad character begins, “But when I do, I use horses and bayonets.”

Earlier in the debate, Obama deployed a put-down of a more recent vintage while harping on Romney’s past comment that Russia “is without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe.”

The 1980s are “calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years,” Obama said, before accusing Romney of wanting “to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.”


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Foreign Policy Takes Center Stage in Final Presidential Debate

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- There are 15 days and one presidential debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney left before the general election.

While both candidates acknowledge the outcome of the election depends on no more than two dozen swing states, the debate Monday night -- the third of the campaign season -- provides the final opportunity for the candidates to make their case to a national TV audience.  Both Obama and Romney spent the weekend behind closed doors preparing.

Until recently, the election has mostly been about Americans' concerns about domestic matters, namely, the economy and creating jobs.

However, last month's attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya has suddenly pushed foreign policy closer to voters' economic worries, with Romney accusing Obama of not being up front about what happened in Benghazi and weakening America's stature abroad.

That topic is expected to take center stage at Monday night's debate in Boca Raton, Fla., while the president is expected to hammer away at Romney's inexperience on foreign affairs matters that was accentuated by his gaffe-filled trip to Europe and Israel last summer.

With each candidate "winning" a debate apiece, it's conceivable that this third one could be the tie-breaker among the so-called undecided voters who will determine the election's outcome.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released on Sunday had the race tied at 47 percent support for each candidate.  Obama has an edge among women, according to the poll.  Romney has the edge among men.

Besides Libya, Romney will likely charge Obama with having done a poor job with the troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan and allowing Iran to continue processing uranium for the purpose of creating a nuclear arsenal that threatens Israel, America's strongest ally in the region.

Meanwhile, the president will likely accuse Romney of advocating policies that could put American soldiers in the middle of another ground war since many of his international advisors are the same neo-conservatives who convinced George W. Bush to invade Iraq, which took the Pentagon's eye off Afghanistan for years.

Furthermore, Obama will argue that his opponent wants to give the Pentagon $1 trillion to $2 trillion more than it's asking for, thus further exploding the deficit.

Each of the candidates has charged the other one with being "too soft" on China, which has devalued its currency to sell its items cheaper abroad and block U.S. imports.  Romney says Obama is wrong to hesitate on labeling Beijing a "currency manipulator," while the president contends that if Romney angers China, he could start a trade war that will further blunt U.S. economic growth.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


WATCH LIVE: President Obama and Mitt Romney Meet Up for Final Debate in Florida

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(BOCA RATON, Fla.) -- President Obama and Mitt Romney face off Monday night for their third and final debate in Boca Raton, Fla.

Watch the debate LIVE:

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


John Kerry Slams Romney's ‘Etch A Sketch’ Memory

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Weighing in as President Obama’s sparring partner in debate prep, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry said, “I don’t believe the American people can trust” Mitt Romney.

“Mitt Romney comes in tonight and thinks he can just ‘etch a sketch’ the American people,” Kerry said overnight in a post-debate interview, slamming the former Massachusetts governor for changing his position on issues such as women’s health.

“That’s an insult to the intelligence of Americans and it’s an insult to the presidency.  The presidency is worth more than that.  It’s certainly worth the truth, and Mitt Romney just didn’t tell it tonight,” he added.

Kerry pointed specifically to Romney’s onetime support for legislation that would have limited access to contraceptive services and the math to explain Romney’s current tax proposals.

“Mitt Romney can’t add up his tax numbers,” Kerry said.  “His tax plan doesn’t work.  It’s been thoroughly exposed.”

And with scorn, Kerry, Massachusetts’ senior senator and the Democratic presidential nominee who lost to George W. Bush in 2004, said, “It is unheard of that a former governor running for president cannot even carry his own state.”

Massachusetts is considered safe Obama territory on Election Day.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Calls for Renewal of Assault Weapons Ban

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(HEMPSTEAD, N.Y.) -- President Obama Tuesday night said he’s interested in seeing an assault weapons ban reintroduced, breaking his silence on the legislation, which has persisted in spite of at least five mass shootings during his term.

At the end of a long answer to the question, “What has your administration done or planned to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?” Obama said this:

“My belief is that, (A), we have to enforce the laws we’ve already got, make sure that we’re keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill.  We’ve done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we’ve got more to do when it comes to enforcement.  But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets.  And so what I’m trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally.  Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced.  But part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence.  Because frankly, in my home town of Chicago, there’s an awful lot of violence and they’re not using AK-47s.  They’re using cheap hand guns.”

As a candidate in 2008, Obama campaigned for permanent reinstatement of the expired assault weapons ban, and Attorney General Eric Holder in 2009 indicated that the administration would lobby for a bill.  But that never materialized and the White House has largely avoided talking about it.

In August, after the Sikh Temple shooting in Wisconsin, Jay Carney said, “He does support renewing the assault weapons ban.”

But Tuesday night is the first time during Obama's first term that the sentiment has come from his mouth.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


‘Walmart Moms’ Say Obama Won Second Debate, But Not by Much

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(MILWAUKEE, Wis.) -- Undecided “Walmart moms” in Milwaukee, Wis., gave the presidential debate win to President Obama by a narrow margin -- but they’re not sold yet.

In a bipartisan focus group conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis and sponsored by Walmart, a group of undecided female voters were asked to vote for who they thought won the second presidential debate on Tuesday.  Five women in the group said Obama, three said Mitt Romney, and two said they thought it was tie.

Overall, though, most of these women said they remain undecided.  They said they feel as though it’s time to do some more research on the candidates, and ultimately, it’s time to make their decision.

The words associated with Obama’s performance were a mix of positive and negative -- they ranged from unprepared and stumbling, to specific, impressive and prepared.

The same was true for Romney, as far as the mixed feelings.  Some women said they saw him as confident, others described him as arrogant and superior.  There was a tepid agreement that Obama seemed more genuine than Romney.

About half of the women in the room had watched the first presidential debate, and that group was actually split between whether they thought Obama did better or worse this time around.

But “winning” the debate doesn’t necessarily mean “winning” these women’s hearts.  A couple of women noted that their verdict for who won the debate was not the same as their verdict for who they agreed with more.

One woman said that she found herself agreeing much more with Obama throughout the debate, but she thought Romney’s delivery was smoother.  Another woman said the reverse: She thought Obama seemed better prepared, but she agreed with Romney.

When asked what they need to hear from the candidates in order to make their decision, the answers were somewhat mixed.  One woman said she’d need to hear more about affordable health care.  Several women responded that they’d like to hear more about the candidates’ education plans.  And another woman, who said that her mother was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, wanted to hear specifics about Medicare and what it will look like going down the road.

The women agreed on a series of points.

First, the debate made them want to do more research on the candidates.

Second, these women would like to hear more about education: what each candidate plans to do to improve our schools.  This was a complaint that was echoed in the first presidential debate, among a similar focus group of Walmart moms in Las Vegas.  The participants said they felt as though no one was really talking about education, and that’s a problem.

And finally, not a single woman in the focus group Tuesday night said that she felt as though the candidates were speaking to her personally.  Both of these men failed again to make that human connection -- at least with this group of voters.

When asked who they felt the candidates were mainly addressing Tuesday night, the consensus was that it seemed like Romney and Obama were only addressing one another.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama and Romney Get Fired Up in Heated Second Debate

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Circling each other like boxers at times and looking one another in the eye, President Obama and Mitt Romney came out swinging as soon as Monday night's debate began, sparring over Libya, energy production, and an assault weapons ban.

At one point during a particularly heated exchange, Romney snapped when Obama tried to interrupt, "I'm still speaking."

An another point, Obama said Romney's insinuation that his administration played politics with the deaths of four Americans in Libya was "offensive."

Obama, whose performance at the first debate two weeks ago was roundly considered to be lackluster, tried to make up lost ground Monday night.

[READ the Debate Transcript]

Within the first 20 minutes of the debate, the president repeatedly accused Romney of stretching the truth, attacking Romney's comments, for example, about job creation, as "just not true."

Veteran political commentator George Will did not pick a winner, but said it was a great debate.

"I have seen every presidential debate in American history since Nixon and Kennedy in 1960. This was immeasurably the best," Will said.

In a particularly heated exchange, Romney said the president failed to immediately call the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya that left four Americans dead an act of terror. The Republicans have hammered the administration's failure to either recognize it as a terror attack or admit that it was a terror attack.

The president, however, said he appeared in the Rose Garden the day after the attack and called the killing a terror attack. When Romney argued that it was not true, moderator Candy Crowley stepped in to say the president had called the attack terrorism the next day.

"Say that a little louder, Candy," Obama called out.

The audience, which had been watching the two men contradict each other and interrupt each other, began to applaud.

Obama also said at a later point, looking over at Romney, "The suggestion that anyone on my team would play politics (after four Americans died) is offensive."

The two tangled over energy policies, with Obama claiming the country has produced more oil, gas and coal than what was produced under President George W. Bush, "and he was an oil man," Obama said.

Romney insisted the Obama administration has cut the number of licenses to drill on federal land, while Obama said he has taken licenses away from companies that were simply sitting on the drilling licenses and not using them so they could be given to other drillers.

Both men were off their stools talking into microphones and trying to talk over each other, insisting the other man was wrong.

When Romney eventually wrangled the floor to himself, Obama tried to interject, prompting Romney to snap, "You'll get your chance in a moment. I am still speaking."

The candidates cut each other off, sometimes jumping out of their chairs and arguing with Crowley to get more time. Their exchanges were marked with cutting comments like, "Very little of what Gov. Romney just said is true," and Romney facing Obama to say, "Here's a bit of advice."

Obama, who looked down during much of the first debate, kept his eyes on Romney and often leaned forward as if eager for his turn to speak.

Some pundits who believed that the town hall structure of Monday night's debate, in which 80 undecided voters made up the audience and some asked questions of the candidates, would keep them from being aggressive were quickly proven wrong.

"I understand the stakes here," said Crowley, CNN's chief political correspondent, in an effort to put some order on the debate.

Romney, who has been stiff on the trail but has come off as poised and confident in the debates, repeatedly attacked the president's stewardship.

He highlighted the country's budget deficit. "The president said he'd cut the deficit in half, instead he doubled it. This puts us on a road to Greece," Romney said.

There are "23 million people struggling to find a job....The president's policies have been exercised over the last four years and they haven't put America back to work," Romney said. "We have fewer people working today than when he took office."

Obama mocked Romney's often-cited "five point plan" to lower taxes in an effort to end the deficit, saying it was lacking in detail.

"Gov. Romney doesn't have a five point plan," the president said. "He has a one point plan, that people at the top play by different rules."

"We haven't heard from the governor any specifics beyond Big Bird and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood in terms of how he pays for that," he said.

The president also said that he would like to see an assault weapons ban reintroduced. The campaign and other Democrats have stayed away from the guns issue this campaign, even after the slaughter in the movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

"Weapons designed for soldiers in war do not belong on our streets," Obama said.

Romney said he was not in favor of new laws, but that we needed to change "the culture of violence."

That led Obama to remind Romney that he had supported an assault weapons ban as governor of Massachusetts.

"He was for an assault weapons ban before he was against it," Obama said.

At the end of the debate, each candidate was asked to debunk a misperception about themselves. Romney seized the opportunity to strike back at the Democratic talking point that he did not care about 47 percent of the country.

"I care about 100 percent of the American people," said Romney.

The 47 percent came from a covertly recorded tape of Romney telling big bucks backers that 47 percent of Americans don't pay taxes and expect the government to take care of them.

Obama took the chance to unload on Romney. The president said Romney is "a good man ... but when he says behind closed doors he believes 47 percent of Americans are ... who do you think he's talking about?"

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio