GREENSBORO -- Monday night's presidential debate may have seemed less-intense than the second debate between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney.
University of North Carolina-Greensboro professor, Roy Schwartzman explains why it felt like the candidates agreed on some of the same issues.
What did they agree on? What did they disagree on?
Schwartzman: Romney definitely shifted to much softer positions on foreign policy and had far less pointed criticisms than he had been making. They seemed to agree on the major threats facing the US, but a lot of the apparent agreement was that both Romney and Obama linked foreign policy to domestic economic matters, since that is the issue that matters to voters. The sharpest disagreement related to military funding, which generated the much heralded "horses and bayonets" comment by Obama. Sadly, the most apparent agreement is the lack of a clear guiding set of values and direction for foreign policy. Since the fall of communism in 1989, US foreign policy simply has no core aside from the problematic "war on terror." This late in the election, candidates become more risk averse. They don't want to propose new ideas or directions. Foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, is currently so volatile and unpredictable that any firm position a candidate takes today may become irrelevant or dangerous tomorrow.
Instant polls showed President Obama won. Is this because the two candidates share similar views with his opponent?
Schwartzman: Quick evaluations of these debates rely on holistic, intuitive reactions rather than reflections on positions. The "win" in this case probably reflects a prevailing sense that Pres. Obama seemed more assertive and had a more ready command of deep knowledge beyond lists of names and facts. What we are seeing is that more people felt Obama was "in charge"? It's doubtful that judgment in itself would be enough to alter voting behavior, especially if connected to foreign policy (a low priority for most Americans).
WFMY News 2/Roy Schwartzman