The US Candidates’ Non-Debate

DENVER – For the uninitiated, especially foreign observers, the United States’ presidential election campaign can seem like an epic narrative in which the protagonists pass through various trials en route to salvation, with the US media’s nonstop coverage resounding like a Greek chorus. Now that the made-for-television Republican and Democratic conventions are over, the odyssey of President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, continues with three face-to-face encounters in October.

The first debate is scheduled to take place here at the University of Denver on October 3. Both candidates received some (well-deserved) criticism during the conventions for appealing to peoples’ emotions instead of addressing facts and policies. In the debates, that should change as they confront each other directly while making their case to voters.

But October 3 is only the beginning. The vice-presidential candidates will square off on October 11, while Obama and Romney will meet again on October 16 and then for the last debate, on October 22.

Foreign policy has made few appearances in the campaign, but the final debate is supposed to be devoted to the subject, thereby giving voters a sustained view of how the candidates view the world. Obama has spoken periodically over the course of his presidency about foreign policy (albeit before the current campaign), whereas Romney has said far less. Anxious to distance himself from the legacy of the previous Republican administration, he never mentions former President George W. Bush and avoids mention of the two wars of the last decade.