10/24/2012 09:18 am ET Updated Dec 24, 2012

Debate Over! Now the Real Race Begins

Some thoughts on the debate. Governor Mitt Romney threw punches but President Barack Obama hit back. And strongly. In terms of body language -- Romney smiled at Obama as if he were a child out of his depth. For his part, the President stared intensely at his challenger during Romney's monologues. Romney had an air of entitlement. At times the former Massachusetts governor seemed too slick, wearing the velvet cloak of affability. He exuded an uneasy charm , possibly as a disquise to obscure the strong undercurrent of hostility he appears to have for Mr. Obama. For his part Obama acted like an angered professor -- condescending toward a spoiled pupil.

Mr. Romney is a rich, handsome, charismatic son of privilege who -- by golly -- wants the White House! But is he entitled to it? He derided Mr. Obama for what he called an "apology tour" through the Mideast when in actuality, the President was attempting to mend fences and extend olive branches. President Bush's foreign policy in the region -- the saber-rattling, the seemingly unnecessary war in Iraq -- cost thousands of American lives -- and the lives of many citizens of the region as well. Would Mr. Romney follow in Mr. Bush's footsteps? Would he seek to "outsource" U.S. foreign policy to contractors as some critics charge the Bush adminsistration did? In this final debate, Mr. Romney sought to keep steering the debate back to the economy. And he also targeted a vulnerable health care policy. Romney appeared definitive in wanting to pulverize "Obamacare." But for what exactly?

Would Mr. Romney slice one of the most important pieces of social legislation since Social Security in order to pay for a beefier military and more ships in the Navy? Does he want more "horses and bayonets" (the winning line of the night) at the expense of providing health insurance to thousands of disenfranchised Americans? Romney at times twisted the President's foreign policy achievements into what he conceived as a show of weakness. But truth be told, the administration has gone on record calling for democracy in the region --and when necessary -- acting decisively (killing Osama bin Laden, crippling al Qaeda). Obama's defense of Israel in this debate was unequivocal -- his anecdotes regarding how the bloodshed affected ordinary citizens, touching. As for Iran, is the real issue the "capability" of nuclear threat or the actuality of it? In the end the Presdent proclaimed convincingly that if Israel is attacked, America wll respond decisively.

Looming over the questions in the debate over foreign policy were the deaths on September 11 of U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Mr. Romney has blasted the President for the assault on the American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi. He has questioned the administration's reports on the incident. Did poor security result in the tragedy? Although acting somewhat defensively, the President defended the administration's actions. He seemed to have won the point -- but barely. Mr. Romney's implication: Benghazi was a symptom of a weak American foreign policy overall.

Mr. Obama blew some early opportunities in this race (not to mention his poor performance in the first debate) but last night he appreared "Presidential." Both candidates got some of their "facts" wrong. But this appears to be a race that won't be won on facts and details, but rather in a fight for the hearts and minds (and votes) of all Americans.

The debate is over and now the real 'race' has begun. There's a big difference between both candidates. This is not an election about "what's in it for me" but rather a fight for just which candidate will champion the rights of those whose voices aren't always heard. Democratic pundits charge that the the GOP platform appears to minimize the rights of women (chief among them their 'right to choose"). The progress made in the fight for gay marriage and "equality" seems to have been lost in the robotic calls for the 'sanctity of marriage' and a return to an "Ozzie and Harriet" America that is as fictional as an episode of Mad Men. What about the poor, the disenfranchised, gays, women, the elderly in need of relief from rising prescription costs (brought down by half in some cases by the demonized "Obamacare") and immigrants seeking a path toward legal immigration? These groups (some making part of the so-called "47 percent" Mr. Romney allegedly considers "victims") have all benefited(or have been inspired) by the last four years of the Obama Presidency. There is certainly much to be done -- but there has been hope. As for change, it's always a slow process in a democracy like ours. Sometimes one term isn't enough. Is it time to turn our backs on those who need our help the most? Has a compassionate America disappeared? What appears to be clear is that if Mr. Obama succeeds and "Obamacare" benefits even more Americans -- it will be difficult (if not impossible) for a future Republican President to torpedo it. By that time "Obamacare's" effects will be widespread. An uproar would certainly rise from the thousands of Americans provided access to universal health care. Mr. Romney clearly knows this.

Mr.Romney promises a better economy -- but America isn't Bain. And the economic polices expounded by Mr. Romney seem to be curiously similar to the ones that got the U.S. in trouble in the first place. On the other hand Mr. Obama must still bring unemplyment down and lift a troubled economy.The debate is over. The race is close..And so we wait and watch and wonder. Election Day 2012 -- the choice is clear -- the outcome critical. And that isn't debatable.