In the spin room, the message from Mitt Romney’s inner circle was crystal clear: Romney didn’t want to be unnecessarily combative during the third presidential debate; he wanted to be informative.
During debate prep, Romney’s team hoped that a relaxed, informed Romney would contrast nicely with a fierier, defensive president.
“President Obama sounded so desperate, throwing out the kitchen sink,” says Dan Senor, a Romney aide. “He looked angry.”
“The president launched one attack after another,” adds Eric Fehrnstrom, a Romney adviser. “He sounded like the challenger.”
At every turn, Romney’s aim was to project leadership, and show voters that he is not a warmonger. “[Peace] should be the overarching goal of our foreign policy,” Fehrnstrom explains. “Governor Romney believes that peace is achieved through strength.”
Romney’s supporters think undecided voters will click with Romney’s approach. “He had a very dignified and knowledgeable tone,” says Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.
Meanwhile, cross the table, President Obama’s naval joke about “horses and bayonets” was “petty,” Ayotte thought, and reflective of the president’s diminishing appeal.