Just to confuse everyone with more poll numbers, the race for the White House is looking decidedly close going into the final debate tonight. From the Guardian:
A new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows that after trailing Obama all year, Romney is now tied with him on 47% of the likely vote. The last WSJ/NBC poll, taken before the first presidential debate in which Romney dominated the president, had Obama ahead by 49% to 46%.
However, the polling maestro Nate Silver sees a fairly solid lead for the President when taking into account a wider array of tracking statistics:
Regardless of what the polls say, we know that the debates really are making a difference in this election – Romney got an enormous bounce after the first one, and Obama saved his campaign after the second – so the third installment will be worth tuning in to. The debate in Boca Raton, Florida will be devoted to foreign policy, a topic where Romney has shown serious weakness in the past, so it’s Obama’s to win.
Foreign policy debates in mainstream US politics is a pretty nauseating affair with candidates from both sides trying to ‘out American’ the other. The contest is basically a chest thumping exercise to determine who is the toughest, so we can expect Obama to mention killing Osama Bin Laden over and over again, and Romney to threaten Iran, China and Syria as many times as possible.
The interesting part of the debate will be about their stance on the Israeli and the supposed threat from Iran. You’ll have to read between the lines to figure out what they really mean, but expect the President to carefully argue that US foreign policy should not be outsourced to Israel and Iran should not be threatened unnecessarily, while Romney will attack Obama for ‘abandoning Israel’ and appearing weak on Iran. It’s a delicate balancing act for Obama who realizes he has to draw a distinction between the parties when it comes to foreign policy without looking weak to voters, many of whom believe he still might secretly be a Muslim (yes, it really does come down to that). Romney knows this of course and will look to overtly portray the President as an extremist sympathizer, particularly when it comes to the attacks in Benghazi.
Again, the debate will come down to performance, not substance so don’t expect facts to play a large part in it. For people outside the US, the whole debacle will seem completely ridiculous as both candidates will describe a world that doesn’t actually exist. No one believes America is genuinely under threat from Iran or any other country on the planet, and no one thinks Israel is behaving sanely when it comes to their treatment of the Palestinians. But in American political circles it is a given that Iran is on the verge of attacking the US with a home made nuclear weapon, and Israel is completely justified in its continued occupation of Palestinian territories.
I’m not looking forward to tonight as I find the distortions from both sides pretty outrageous, but it is important in terms of the race for the Presidency so I will be watching with interest.
We’ll be doing live coverage of the event 9pm ET/6pm PT, so tune in for the analysis.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.