Barack Obama and Mitt Romney say all they're ready to say
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Now you've heard everything.
Well, maybe not everything. Maybe not every question you had received a fully candid answer. This is, after all, a political campaign.
But for six well-hyped hours combined this month, President Barack Obama, challenger Mitt Romney, and their running mates for vice president got to say everything they're ready to say in front of one another and the public -- and to sell on live TV all that they're prepared to sell.
Romney made it a running theme in all three of his 90-minute confrontations with Obama that the president's foreign policy strategy "is unraveling before our very eyes." While Obama cited what he deemed instances of progress, such as tough sanctions on Iran, and clear allies in Libya, Romney painted the status quo in the Mideast as ever darker and more chaotic.
Monday night, the candidates also traded fire, again, over events in Iran, Israel, Egypt and Syria. Obama played on experience, saying Romney's positions have been "all over the map." Even when he agreed with Obama's positions, Romney said America must be "stronger" and show more "leadership."
Clearly, the GOP and several former Bush administration aides consulting Romney have fought to try to show Obama as unprepared for a big world events. In 2008, the financial crisis hit late in the campaign and incumbent Republicans were on the hot seat.
Perhaps because polls show them so close, Obama this time focused more explicitly on Romney's past shifts of position, and added more comprehensive zingers -- such as suggesting that the former governor wanted a foreign policy from the 1980s, economic policies from the 1920s and social policies from the 1950s.
In the three presidential and one vice presidential debate, lines were drawn on jobs, taxes, immigration, energy and gender, amid crossfire over the credibility of the claims.
Obama said, again, that Romney's tax plan doesn't add up and would only worsen the deficit, in part by shielding the wealthy from any tax hikes. Citing trade deficits, Romney asked if the Chinese wouldn't look at American vulnerabilities "and say, 'Is it a good idea to be with America?'
They clashed again over General Motors. Romney cited employment levels short of Obama's promises and the degree to which long-term energy issues remain unsolved.
Both Romney and Obama played up their differences as crucial and lasting matters -- which they may or may not be. Note: The foreign-policy portion of the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates dealt heavily with the tiny Formosa Strait islands of Kimoy and Matsu -- an obscure footnote today for most Americans.
As Election Day approaches, voters in contested states will hear pieces of all this again -- teased and presented as short clips in expensive commercials.