In the week leading up to the third debate between then-Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain in 2008, Obama’s approval, according to RealClearPolitics’ national polling average at the time, was a sturdy 7.2 percent higher than McCain’s.
For a trifecta of debate victories, Obama, according to a post-debate Gallup/USA Today poll, was seen as the winner of that third and final debate, with 56 percent having that opinion and only 30 percent believing McCain to have been the winner. (In the first and second debates respectively, the scores were Obama 46, McCain 34; and Obama 56, McCain 23.)
In the week following the debate, Obama’s average approval actually dropped down to a 6.5-point lead over McCain, but from then on, his approval numbers rose again until, on Election Day, he enjoyed a 7.6 lead.
Tonight, October 22, 2012, after suffering a crushing defeat in his first debate with challenger Mitt Romney and merely tying with him in debate Number 2, the President absolutely must be declared the victor if he is to realistically have even a slight hope at winning the election. When your challenger’s approval is evenly matched with yours (only three fifths of one percent separate the men in this area, with Romney in slight lead); when you are more personally disliked than your challenger; when your challenger’s base is far more enthusiastic about voting than yours are; and when the projected electoral-college map gives you 201 votes to your challenger’s 206, ties and marginal wins do not suffice.
Tonight’s debate is on foreign policy, a double-edged sword for Obama. Before the September 11 embassy attacks in Libya almost a month and a half ago, the President had a 15-point lead on the matter as to whom voters trust more to handle foreign affairs well. But after the attack, that confidence fell 40 percent down to a 6-point lead over Romney.
Obama’s foreign-policy credentials consist of Osama bin Laden being found and killed under Obama’s command, ramping up drone strikes in the Middle East, and the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Possibly nullifying any political benefit from those facts are these facts: Obama, as Senator and presidential candidate, opposed the methods employed by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that led Obama to Osama; despite drone strikes generally being seen as evidence of a strong stance against our enemies, Americans are tired of our continuing intervention in the Middle East; and al-Qaida, because we announced that we left Iraq, has gone back into that country and begun causing mayhem once again.
This brings Obama’s foreign-policy score from a plus-three back down to a zero. Bringing it below zero is his and his administration’s inconsistency and outright lies surrounding the question of just what happened last month in Libya, the topic of which is surely to be a major factor tonight. Romney must be more persistent in having Obama answer, once and for all, why he denied the extra security to the embassy requested by the State Department, and why he and his administration, for two weeks after the attack, blamed the death of four Americans on a YouTube video despite intelligence reports to the contrary, and did not speak out against the shameful exploitation via the recording of the arrest and perp-walk of the filmmaker, a visual apology to the Islamic world, ensuring Muslims, “We got him, see? Don’t attack us again; he won’t make anymore hurtful movies!” Romney wants to know just as much as the rest of America does, and if Obama cannot answer satisfactorily, it is this writer’s opinion that tonight’s debate will render him toast.