Before last night's debate began, it was endowed with the status of the Super Bowl, World Cup final or the 7th game of the World Series-- take your pick. It was billed as the pivotal moment of the campaign and it was officially billed as a debate on foreign policy.
The reality was much more subdued than the hype. The debate was not a game changer for either candidate and essentially was a draw.
There will be no charges against the moderator Bob Schieffer about favoritism as there was in the other debates, except for one thing: He allowed both candidates to transpose the presumed foreign policy debate into a debate about domestic economic policy and who would prove a more effective leader. As a result, we got many of the reheated arguments and punch lines from the earlier debates and from the presidential campaign in general.
The most important take away from this debate is that both candidates realize that it will be very difficult to persuade the American people to commit American power massively as the United States did in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Romney attempted to reassure viewers that he was not going back to the Bush era.
The only area where both candidates mentioned the use of force was over Iran. Public opinion polls show that Iran is an area where public opinion is willing to countenance the use of military force.
Both candidates pledged to back Israel in the event of an Iranian attack.
Romney outlined areas where he would increase the pressure on Iran:
Number two, something I would add today is I would tighten those sanctions. I would say that ships that carry Iranian oil, can't come into our ports. I imagine the E.U. would agree with us as well. Not only ships couldn't, but I'd say companies that are moving their oil can't, people who are trading in their oil can't. I would tighten those sanctions further. Secondly, I'd take on diplomatic isolation efforts. I'd make sure that Ahmadinejad is indicted under the Genocide Convention. His words amount to genocide incitation. I would indict him for it. I would also make sure that their diplomats are treated like the pariah they are around the world. The same way we treated the apartheid diplomats of South Africa.
Romney claimed that Iran was closer to the bomb because it detected American weakness at the start of an Obama administration that adopted an apologetic tone to dictators and failed to stand up for the forces of freedom as in the Iranian Green Revolution.
This is where Romney mentioned the daylight that the administration wanted to create between the United States and Israel - and claimed that this was something that the dictators noticed as well.
He reminded the president that at one stage during his administration he had received a letter from 38 Democratic Senators chiding him for his unfriendly policy towards Israel. Obama retorted that when he has visited Israel as a candidate he had gone to Yad Vashem and Sderot and did not treat his visit as a party fundraiser.
Once the candidates agreed that a sound economy was the basis of a strong foreign policy, we were back to familiar terrain and that is how the debate ended.
Amiel Ungar is a political scientist living in Tekoa, Israel. He is Arutz Sheva's political analyst, writes regularly on global issues, and is frequently featured in Hebrew and English publications.