Snap polls following the final televised debate between President Barack Obama and Republican contender Mitt Romney showed Obama with a clear, but far from knockout, win.
A poll for news channel CNN showed 48% of registered voters who watched the debate saying Obama won as opposed to 40% who favoured Governor Romney. CBS polled only undecided voters and found Obama leading a considerably greater margin of 53% to 23% among them.
The third and final debate focused on foreign policy and took place at Lynn University in Boca Raton, a swanky resort city in the vital battleground state of Florida, where recent polling has found the election to be neck and neck.
Attention focused on whether Obama could stop a late Mitt Romney surge. Obama had been consistently leading in polls for almost a year, until alimp and wooden showing by the President in the first of the three televised debates saw his lead disappear.
Obama sought to erode memories of that performance with a series of hard-hitting attacks on what he characterised as Romney’s inexperience and inconsistency on foreign policy issues. “What we need to do with respect to the Middle East is strong, steady leadership – not wrong and reckless leadership that is all over the map”, said Obama. Obama also took every opportunity to express support for Israel.
Romney, in contrast, took a more consensual approach, tacking to the centre by expressing support for a number of key Obama policies including withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by 2014. He insisted that “we can't kill our way of this mess.”
Even before the release of snap polls, political analysts called the debate for Obama. “There’s no question debate coaches will score this one for President Obama”, said John King, a senior political journalist for CNN. Mike Smithson, a British expert on political betting noted that Mitt Romney’s price on major US betting markets fell consistently during the debate.
Although organised as a debate purely on foreign policy, candidates spent some time wandering into domestic issues, clashing on education and Obama’s bailout of the American car industry. Over 80% of debate time was set aside for discussion on the Middle East, with the remaining time given to candidates to explain how they would deal with the rise of China.
America’s relationship with the UK, and with Europe more generally, was not once mentioned by either candidate.
Gerry Lynch is a consultant for polling and market research company LucidTalk. Based in Belfast, LucidTalk provide in-depth polling and market research services to public, private, media and political and public affairs organisations in Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and Britain. www.lucidtalk.co.uk, Twitter @LucidTalk. Facebook: LucidTalk.