At this stage of the race -- with candidates as smart as both President Obama and Governor Romney -- it is safe to say that nothing happens by accident. So what is the takeaway from last night's foreign policy debate?
Mitt Romney wanted to obscure differences rather than clarify them, even going so far as to etch-a-sketch away his most hawkish language on Afghanistan and Iran. But why?
Faced with a debate where he would have to actually articulate what differences in policy underlay the tough talk and harsh critique that are easily spewed in speeches and interviews on Fox - where follow up questions are forbidden -- Romney threw in the towel before the fight started.
He realized that beyond the bellicose words that had carried him through the primaries and into contention for the presidency, there were no policies that made sense.
So, Romney decided to hide behind a platform that was little more than "me too," and simply parroted the president's lead.
With the three debates now complete, and the campaigns running on vapors and adrenalin until November 6, and only one jobs report left to help frame the outcome, where are we? There are essentially three silos of substance to think about: foreign policy, domestic social issues, and domestic economic issues.
On social issues Romney has swung from moderate governor to Akin acolyte, and now back to moderate Mitt, moving us across generations of social conventions week by week, leaving us confused and baffled about his core convictions. On economic issues, Romney has exhumed the skeleton of an economic agenda that touts lower taxes as a mantra for growth. If only the historical record gave any credence to the claims.
And now on foreign policy, Romney has conceded no real disagreement. The Romney campaign, at the end of the day, is so much less than meets the eye. So much less in any area of creativity or thought than one might have expected.
So why its appeal? Why is the race so close? Because the President's first term dealt well with the immediate crisis of economic cataclysm - but not the trend lines of declining middle class income and security. People are unhappy. And when alternatives appear with promises, no matter how empty and unfounded they may be, people will give them a long look. The anxiety about our future, that has allowed Mitt Romney a seat at the table, is what will drive our politics for the next decade. It has not been - and will not be - pretty.
That's My View
Eliot Spitzer is the former Governor of New York, and hosts Viewpoint every weeknight at 8pm on Current TV.
The views expressed by the station’s commentators are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect the views of WAMC or its management.