Why Mitt held fire at debate
October 25, 2012 -- Updated 0936 GMT (1736 HKT)
- Ana Navarro: Obama won foreign policy debate; agreeable Romney was strategic
- She says Romney held back on Benghazi, Israel criticism to seem less aggressive
- She says it worked; he may not have landed blows, but looked presidential
- Navarro: The good news: election only two weeks away. The bad news? Same thing
Editor's note: Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist and commentator, served as national Hispanic campaign chairwoman for John McCain in 2008 and national Hispanic co-chair for Jon Huntsman's 2012 campaign. Follow her on Twitter @ananavarro.
(CNN) -- The three presidential debates are over. The last debate, earlier this week is the last time we will see these two candidates debate each other (unless they go into the paid speaking circuit some time in the future and are handsomely remunerated to do it all for show). It is the last time we will see Barack Obama on a presidential debate stage. And in my eyes, he won this last debate.
In large part, he was helped by the authority he carries as president. It's one thing to debate the foreign policy decisions you would make if you were commander in chief. It's another to do so when you are the commander in chief. In the foreign policy debate, the candidates did not enter or leave the room as equals.
The morning of the debate the Obama campaign released a foreign-policy-themed TV ad portraying Mitt Romney as a trigger-happy, twitchy-fingered cowboy. The ad's purpose was to make a comparison between the candidates and offer voters a clear choice. But in the debate hall; the choice became a lot less clear.
For a good chunk of the debate, we heard Mitt Romney agree with President Obama and President Obama sarcastically tell Mitt Romney how happy he was they agreed. It bordered on theater of the absurd. It happened too many times for this to have been a coincidence. Now Romney even agreed with Obama's timeline for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Make no mistake about it, it was part of the Romney strategy. He was trying to get through the night without antagonizing war-weary American voters. He defused the Obama caricature of Romney, the war-monger. Instead, we saw Mitt Romney channel John Lennon. He came dangerously close to leading us in the chorus of " Give Peace a Chance."
In this debate peace process, Romney allowed Obama to go unscathed on several issues which could have led to heated exchanges. Romney flailed at the air without landing a blow on the circumstances surrounding the assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the assassination of four Americans there. He did not press Obama on what even to the untrained eye is a less than warm and cuddly relationship with Israel, our strongest ally in the region and an issue many Jewish voters in swing-state Florida care about. This tells us Romney is feeling fairly confident about winning Florida and he did not want to come across as the aggressor.
Strickland: Obama has been clear on jobs
Campaigns micro-target undecided voters
Romney camp slams 'glossy panic button'
Candidates prepare for final debate
Romney's strategy worked. Polls show most Americans agree Obama edged him out in this last debate, but they also show most Americans believe he is qualified to be commander in chief. That's all Romney had to do. Do no harm to himself, and pass the test. He did both.
President Obama also did what he had to do. He won the debate. Unfortunately for him, fewer people watched the third debate than watched the first two. The first debate had deep repercussions. Obama was about to wrap it all up. Republicans were pessimistic. A Romney loss was seeming likely. All that changed with President Obama's disastrous performance. Though he won the second debate, he did not make up that lost ground. It is unlikely this third debate will be a reverse game changer either. Presidential debates are not like tennis; you don't get a freebie second serve if the first one hits the net or lands outside the lines.
That leaves this race pretty much in the same place we were before this week's debate. The match is very close but the ball is in Romney's court. Though I do not underestimate Romney's ability to make an unforced error, momentum and the clock may be on his side.
Between now and Election Day we will see Romney and Obama criss-cross America, barn-storming through the battleground sates. We will hear the same stump speeches over and over again until our ears bleed. The good news is, the election is only two weeks away. The bad news is, the election is two weeks away.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ana Navarro.
Part of complete coverage on
May 24, 2013 -- Updated 1224 GMT (2024 HKT)
Pepper Schwartz says with the constant drumbeat of scandals in armed forces, the military must require education programs to teach men self control, address culture of sexual entitlement
May 24, 2013 -- Updated 1230 GMT (2030 HKT)
Gayle Sulik says the reason the BRCA1 gene mutation test for breast cancer risk -- the one Angelina Jolie had -- costs so much is that a company owns the gene and sets the price.
May 24, 2013 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
John Sutter says the Scouts' plan to welcome gay Scouts but not gay adult Scout leaders doesn't make sense.
May 24, 2013 -- Updated 1353 GMT (2153 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah, Margaret Hoover and John Avlon's Big Three podcast takes on the New York mayoral race's new candidate, GOP hypocrisy in Oklahoma relief funding and Bloomberg's comment on who shouldn't go to college
May 24, 2013 -- Updated 1325 GMT (2125 HKT)
Despite dramatic terrorist incidents, the terror threat that led to 9/11 has been defeated, and Obama is right to say the U.S. should move on, says Peter Bergen
May 24, 2013 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
The Louisiana governor says there's a common theme in the IRS controversy, the seizure of phone records from The Associated Press, and the efforts to rally support for Obamacare.
May 23, 2013 -- Updated 1220 GMT (2020 HKT)
Melissa Brymer says children need special attention to recover from the trauma of the tornado, and parents must be patient and calm
May 23, 2013 -- Updated 1138 GMT (1938 HKT)
Will Marshall says Tim Cook was grilled about Apple's tax practices but the real culprit is a dysfunctional tax system.
May 24, 2013 -- Updated 1344 GMT (2144 HKT)
Peter Bergen says there's a great deal of misinformation about the counterterrorism policies President Obama will address in a speech Thursday.
May 22, 2013 -- Updated 1247 GMT (2047 HKT)
Two decades ago, Joshua Prager was one of more than 20 people in a terrible bus crash. The author revisits the scene to see how others have made sense of the event.
May 22, 2013 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Joshua Wurman says tornado deaths can be reduced, prediction and preparedness can be improved, but it's up to individuals to make sure they heed warnings and have a safe place to go.
May 22, 2013 -- Updated 1457 GMT (2257 HKT)
Ruben Navarette says under Obama, a record number of immigrants have been deported. So why is his drive for immigration reform now in conflict with enforcement officials?
May 22, 2013 -- Updated 1334 GMT (2134 HKT)
Nathan Gunter says Okies have learned to love the big sky, but also to watch it carefully for signs of trouble: When the sky betrays us, we cope by helping one another.
May 22, 2013 -- Updated 1333 GMT (2133 HKT)
LZ Granderson says the heroics of teachers who shielded kids in the Oklahoma tornado remind us of what they do for our country
May 22, 2013 -- Updated 1126 GMT (1926 HKT)
Tornado researcher Louis Wicker says progress is being made on understanding and predicting extreme storms, but if you hear a warning, take cover immediately
May 21, 2013 -- Updated 1129 GMT (1929 HKT)
The masked henchmen grabbed three fingers on each of the Syrian political cartoonist's hands and pulled them back all the way -- so far that they cracked.
May 20, 2013 -- Updated 1522 GMT (2322 HKT)
Meg Urry says loss of the failing, planet-finding Kepler satellite would be huge for NASA--but one way or another, it's a matter of time before we find signs of life on other worlds
May 21, 2013 -- Updated 1621 GMT (0021 HKT)
Yahoo isn't buying a technology company so much as the community that uses it, Douglas Rushkoff says
May 21, 2013 -- Updated 1515 GMT (2315 HKT)
Joseph Nye says it's far too early to write off the rest of the president's second term because of the IRS controversy, other issues
May 20, 2013 -- Updated 1132 GMT (1932 HKT)
Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton write that people pass up opportunities to spend their money to avoid disagreeable tasks
May 19, 2013 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Bob Greene on how 18th century Americans tried to make sense of the day with no sun
May 18, 2013 -- Updated 0057 GMT (0857 HKT)
With guest Rep. Keith Ellison, John Avlon, Margaret Hoover and Dean Obeidallah discuss the president's scandal trifecta, hope for immigration and what Jolie's revelation means for women.
May 17, 2013 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
The press has turned on President Obama with a vengeance, writes Howard Kurtz
May 18, 2013 -- Updated 1801 GMT (0201 HKT)
Donna Brazile says our democracy is endangered, not by the Russians, North Korea, Iran or even terrorists. To quote Pogo: "We have met the enemy and he is us."
May 18, 2013 -- Updated 1759 GMT (0159 HKT)
Photographer Arne Svenson defends his show "Neighbors," portraits of the occupants of a building near him taken through their windows.
May 20, 2013 -- Updated 1337 GMT (2137 HKT)
Theater critic Kevin Williamson was kicked out of a play when he took the phone away from an audience member and threw it. He says it was worth it.
May 18, 2013 -- Updated 1425 GMT (2225 HKT)
Gil Welch says women must not panic over Angelina Jolie's mastectomies: 99% of women don't carry the BRCA1 gene.
May 18, 2013 -- Updated 0852 GMT (1652 HKT)
JR's "Inside Out" project brings public spaces alive with giant representations of people
May 17, 2013 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
Roger Colinvaux says the IRS scandal is fundamentally about disclosure of donors, not tax-exempt status.
May 16, 2013 -- Updated 1514 GMT (2314 HKT)
Maia Goodell says the military should use civil legal remedies on sexual assault cases.
Today's five most popular stories