By Jessica Huseman
I’ve long been frustrated with the fact that foreign policy doesn’t matter with voters. Aside from the fact that half the people watching tonight’s debate just learned that Mali was a country, most voters just don’t care about foreign policy in general — In polls regarding what’s most important to voters, nothing foreign policy related has made it over 5 percent since polling began in January.
According to Reuters, in October, 43 percent of voters ranked the economy as the most important issue, while 25 percent said “unemployment/lack of jobs,” followed by healthcare (7 percent), morality (5 percent), “other” (5 percent), education (4 percent) and immigration (3 percent).
In a political world in which voters are so laser focused on the economy and jobs, foreign policy just won’t move people – even with the recent unrest in the Middle East.
Also, in terms of foreign policy, Obama and Romney agree on too much for this debate to have been a substantial weighing mechanism for voters to choose between them. While tonight’s debate did result in some interesting discussion, things like drone strikes – a hotly contested foreign policy issue – showed no difference between the candidates at all.
“[T]onight’s third and final debate will not only tell us very little about where the two candidates stand on foreign policy and national security issues — it is largely an exercise in futility. … [I]t’s highly unlikely that voters will receive much in the way of clarification on [important] issues. … Rather they’ll get a chance to hear President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney articulate stances on a limited number of foreign policy questions in which their policy positions are remarkably similar.”
This is all – pardon my French – a damn shame, given that the president controls foreign policy. While you might fight for the economic cause of one candidate over another, in reality their policies won’t make it out of the White House press room unless the party in the White House also has a majority in both houses of Congress. On the other hand, the president controls foreign policy almost completely by himself. The economy may not change, but foreign policy will – of that you can be sure.
This is all also a bit of a disappointment given that this debate was the best executed so far. Bob Schieffer was flawless – a shining example of what a moderator should be. The candidates were also both on their game, and offering well thought out answers that created interesting discussion – even if it wasn’t as entertainingly reality-TV quality as previous debates have been.
Now, let’s all go find Mali on a map and cross our fingers.