When President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney met last week in Boca Raton, Florida for the third and final presidential debate, many pundits put the debate in the win column for the President. They did so based on technical debate scoring and not on how it may effect the presidential race. When the latter is considered, I think Mitt Romney will be seen as the beneficiary of the debate's outcome.
Mitt Romney exhibited a more agreeable posture, at times supporting a few of the President's policy decisions over the last four years. He engaged in what business people call "the strategy of the dolphin." The phrase comes from a book written about business. It refers to the fact that when a dolphin is attacked, it reciprocates with less ferocity than the initial attack. It shows its attacker that it has the ability to defend itself, without inflicting serious injury or escalating the confrontation. Or more to the point with regards to Mitt Romney's performance in the third debate, he allowed himself to look strong but fair. Conversely, the President looked like a school yard bully. The strategy of the dolphin was an effective strategy for a final debate in a presidential race that is neck-in-neck.
President Obama entered the debate prepared for Mitt Romney to attack him hard on many issues, but especially on his mishandling of the Benghazi affair. The President developed a strategy for dealing with these attacks, which may have been more effective had they actually occurred. But when Governor Romney brought an unexpected strategy to the debate, Mr. Obama was unable to adjust his game plan. The result was a President who looked like he was fighting a battle on a front that didn't exist. His performance highlighted his inability to adjust to new facts and change course, when it is needed. His presidency has been handcuffed by this inability, highlighted by his response to the Republicans gaining a majority in the House as a result of the 2010 mid-term elections. He refused to accept the political realities in front of him, instead choosing to execute his now out-dated game plan with even more ferocity than before.
When Governor Romney wins next week's election, as I am confident he will, the outcome will have been brought to fruition by many factors. But probably the most over-looked factor will be his performance in the third debate. It not only showed Mr. Romney to be capable of executing the nation's business with decorum and in a statesman-like manner, but it highlighted the current President's inability to do the same.