It’s tempting to, once and for all, toss foreign policy aside and conclude that it won’t matter in this year’s election.
But it would be naïve to say that Monday night’s debate didn’t have some effect on the 2012 race.
Foreign-policy issues can either burnish or burst impressions of a candidate’s leadership abilities, and that matters in how candidates are perceived, along with offering hints on how they’d govern as president.
If Mitt Romney looks like he can lead the world in taking on China, then certainly he can lead the country in taking on the teachers unions. Leadership isn’t just about bringing an international coalition together to save the White Cliffs of Dover, it’s also about resolving the fiscal cliff in the United States.
Thus, even if voters aren’t particularly interested in foreign policy this year, and even if the candidates’ differences on international affairs were difficult to divine in the debate, it still was a chance for President Obama to reassert his leadership and for Romney to further prove his.