By Larry Kane
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – President Obama went on the offensive in the final debate of the campaign season.
On the issue of the night — foreign policy — the candidates found common ground: Governor Romney echoed the president’s position of supporting transition to a moderate government in Syria. Both candidates voiced unequivocal support for Israel.
President Obama came armed with zingers, like his response when Governor Romney said the Navy has fewer ships than in 1916.
“But I think Governor Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”
The line about “horses and bayonets” quickly went viral, with Twitter reporting at one point 105,767 tweets per minute.
But Mitt Romney hit back, “I look around the world, I don’t see our influence growing around the world. I see our influence receding, in part because of the failure of the president to deal with our economic challenges at home; in part because of our withdrawal from our commitment to our military in the way I think it ought to be; in part because of the –the — the turmoil with Israel.”
So what were the strategies of the final debate?
It was obvious from the start that Mitt Romney decided to agree with President Obama on all the hotspot strategy: agreeing on Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The strategy: less hawkish, more moderate. Nothing to risk raising anxieties.
Missed in all the post mortems: he abandoned his attacks on the handling of the Libya attacks.
The President aggressively attacked Romney for what he said were changing positions, saying he was all over the map and he sharply criticized Romney’s grasp of the military. The President was very firm on Iran.
Eventually, Romney and the President got what they wanted — more debates on the economy. Romney drove his points home on jobs, the President slammed hard on Romney’s earlier critique of the auto bailout.
You will decide if this debate affects the vote, but a CBS poll shows it’s a dead heat within the margin of error: Obama 48, Romney 46.