Perhaps feeling the pressure of closing polls in several of the swing states, Obama came out pounding on Romney more than he did in the second contest (and certainly more than he did in the first).
At times, while Romney was talking, Obama seemed to glare him down – not in a mean or threatening way, perhaps, but none of the looking down and taking notes as in the first debate.
Romney – and maybe I’m the only one who sees it this way – again, as in the first debate, seemed to have a frozen expression when Obama was talking.
Either way, both men were more polite than Romney was in the first debate, and Obama was in the second.
Likely that’s because of the format Monday night.
The candidates were seated and were close to each other – less chance to get in each other’s personal space.
And while the moderator, Bob Schieffer of CBS News, did let the two men go after each other at some points, when he called them back into line they both stopped talking – and talking over each other.
Maybe it was his white hair and soft-spoken manner, but neither man tried to run roughshod over him, like Romney certainly did to the moderator in the first debate.
There weren’t many, if any, in the final debate.
Obama clearly said several times that it was time to cut back on nation-building in other parts of the world and to rebuild America, starting with road and school construction and bringing energy self-sufficiency.
Romney, again, talked about how America is less respected than four years ago, and how the country can’t afford four more years of Obama.
While perhaps neither man knocked the ball out of the park, Obama did hit Romney hard when Romney claimed that America is less well respected overseas – citing how Obama reportedly said he would “step back” from Israel and how the president had visited mid-eastern Muslim countries early in his administration, but didn’t visit Israel.
Yes, said Obama, he didn’t visit Israel then, but he did when he was a candidate.
And, unlike Romney, he just didn’t attend fund raisers in Israel, but visited the holocaust museum, visited a town where citizens had been attacked by rockets fired from neighboring enemies.
When Romney said he had to answer those charges, Schieffer said Romney had made some charges of his own that Obama didn’t get an immediate chance to answer.
“You’ll have a chance,” with the next question, said Schieffer to Romney.
But when Romney got to speak again, he didn’t refute Obama’s claims.
Still, several times when Obama went after Romney, he took an interesting tack: Romney said Obama attacking him won’t solve any of America’s problems, nor the problems of many of her hurting people.
Attacking Romney won’t make Americans feel any better about how they have had to live the last four years.
It was a change in the Romney tactic.
And it may well show that Romney, himself and his top aides, believe the president is losing this race, and expecting more direct criticism in the final two weeks of the campaign, Romney isn’t going to answer tit for tat, but will simply put up his hands and tell Obama to talk issues, not make personal attacks.
Of course, all that really matters now – thanks to our Electoral College – are the few states that are still up for grabs.
Obama mentioned Ohio several times – and especially went after Romney on his previous statements about letting troubled U.S. automakers “go bankrupt.”
Speaking over each other, Romney said he never wanted the carmakers to liquidate, that he wanted a “managed” bankruptcy with federal government “guarantees” – whatever that exactly means.
Obama kept saying that just was not accurate, that Romney’s plan was to let them reorganize via private loans, “but that never could, or would, have happened,” and it was clear to everyone except Romney that that was the case.
Let the fact-checkers prove he was right, said Romney.
Finally, the debate was held in Boca Raton, where Romney’s now infamous $50,000 a plate fund raiser was held last spring and Romney was secretly recorded saying 47 percent of Americans thought the government owed them something and they would never take responsibility for their own lives.
And I figured that at some point Obama would crack that Romney was returning to the scene of the crime.
But the president didn’t. I don’t think he even mentioned the number 47 percent. Maybe he believed that comment has been beaten into the ground.
Now the final two weeks strategy will take place.
Watch where the two candidates spend their time and money.
Ohio may become even more critical after Monday night than ever before in this narrow election.