More analysis of and reaction to last night’s presidential debate

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In a debate that was supposed to be about foreign policy, the strongest disagreements between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney on Monday night were about the U.S. economy.

Here is additional analysis of and reaction to last night’s debate. Previous reax here.

Molly Ball: “The most memorable line of the final presidential debate came when Mitt Romney attacked President Obama for the fact that the U.S. Navy has the least ships it’s had since 1917, and Obama shot back: ‘Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets.’ The line got a big laugh. It also epitomized the tenor of the night. Romney took a remarkably conciliatory tack, seeking to blunt the criticism that he has too often gone off recklessly half-cocked when it comes to foreign affairs. But Obama was there ready with the bayonet at every turn, refusing to let Romney move past his prior statements and portraying him at every turn as callow and rudderless. … On the substance, Obama won the debate. … But Romney’s team was just as convinced that the Republican prevailed on style.”

Ball concludes: “The debates are over. There are two weeks until Election Day. More than anything, the last debate revealed where the candidates think they stand: Romney confident, convinced he has only to maintain his momentum to keep floating to the top of the polls; Obama fighting like an underdog to stop Romney’s rise and knock him off his pedestal.”

Chris Cillizza: “Obama controlled the third presidential debate in a way not all that dissimilar from the way Romney controlled the first one. Obama clearly came loaded for bear, attacking Romney from the jump for a lack of clarity when it came to his vision (or lack thereof) on foreign policy.”

National Journal’s Dan Friedman says Obama’s comment that sequestration “won’t happen” “may not change much. But if Obama wins, the statement could make it harder for him to wield the leverage resulting from threatening to let the cuts occur.”

Glen Johnson: Obama turned “in the strongest performance of his three-debate series with Romney. If there was one downside, it was on a topic – foreign affairs – that polls have consistently shown ranks well behind job creation and economic recovery as most important on voters’ minds.”

Beth Reinhard: “Over the course of three presidential debates, Republican Mitt Romney succeeded in defying Democratic attacks—and overcoming his own past missteps—that had threatened to disqualify him as a reasonable choice for voters weary of President Obama. Portrayed for weeks as a warmonger, and compared unfavorably to President George W. Bush, with his two unpopular wars, Romney in the debates showed stronger interest in diplomacy and using military action only as a last resort. Mocked as a buffoon on the international stage, Romney was fluent and gaffe-free. Yet as in the second debate, Obama in Monday night’s face-off on foreign policy was the more frequent and more strident aggressor, racking up twice as many points if anyone had been keeping score.” … And of Obama saying: “There have been times during the campaign where you said that you would do the same things as we did, but you would say it louder,” Reinhard writes, “Frankly, he had a point. … So where does that leave the race? Probably looking more than ever like a coin toss with a smidge of advantage for the sitting president.”

The New York Times‘ David Sanger: “Romney avoided the more bellicose tone he often struck during the Republican primaries. … He ended up agreeing with the broad outlines of Mr. Obama’s approach on the use of drones, and opposed a breach of relations with Pakistan, arguably America’s most frustrating ally.  … As he did in his previous two debates with Mr. Obama, he shifted to the middle, and at times he even sounded the nation-building theme the president talked about as a candidate in 2008 and abandoned after he was elected. … On most of the specifics they argued about, Mr. Romney had a hard time explaining how he would act differently from Mr. Obama.”

Greg Sargent: “Tonight, America was introduced to Peacenik Mitt — and watched him take a pummeling. I don’t know how much this will impact the overall dynamic of the race — it may not matter much at all — but it’s hard to see this as a good night for Romney.”

The Wall Street Journal: “The biggest laugh line of the debate—subject to countless tweets and Internet searches—was President Barack Obama’s comeback to Mitt Romney on the size of the military, asserting that while the U.S. has fewer ships than at any time since 1916, ‘we also have fewer horses and bayonets.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.