The president comes out swinging and lands some blows. But with two weeks to go, Romney believes momentum is on his side.
BOCA RATON, Florida -- The most memorable line of the final presidential debate came when Mitt Romney attacked President Obama for the fact that the U.S. Navy has the least ships it's had since 1917, and Obama shot back: "Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets."
The line got a big laugh. It also epitomized the tenor of the night. Romney took a remarkably conciliatory tack, seeking to blunt the criticism that he has too often gone off recklessly half-cocked when it comes to foreign affairs. But Obama was there ready with the bayonet at every turn, refusing to let Romney move past his prior statements and portraying him at every turn as callow and rudderless.
Afterward, Obama's team was sure the president had landed blows and done significant damage to Romney's credibility. But Romney's camp seemed just as convinced that Obama's attacks indicated nothing more than desperation, and that Romney achieved his goal by looking the part.
The tone was set with the very first question. The moderator, Bob Schieffer, practically invited Romney to repeat his attacks on Obama over the September 11 Libya consulate attack. But Romney didn't take the bait. He congratulated the president on getting Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders; he brought up al Qaeda's incursions into "the northern part of Mali." "But we can't kill our way out of this mess," he said.