Boca Debate Live-Blog III

* Obama coasts on Af/Pak, transitions to freeing up money for vets.

* Mitt gets direct question on cutting off Pakistan, gets wonky and responsible. Even credits Obama for right policies. Internal polls must be looking better than I would have imagined.

* Mitt dodges Bibi bombs-way! hypothetical, moves instead to America-is-weak and economic weakness/defense spending rap.

* Mitt quickly segues to “Democrat Senators” complaining about Obama’s hostility to Bibi.

* Obama goes back to foreign-policy flip-flops. Democrats demanding “aggressiveness” should be very happy. Again, if nothing else, Obama “spreading” Mitt, giving him a lot to respond to.

* Mitt bitches at “spread,” but backs off, moves on to Af/Pak.

* Mitt carefully lays out position on Afghanistan that seems to straddle the major questions.

* Romney won’t be getting any votes from people upset at use of drones.

* Mitt finally gets out full international version of “are you better off than you were four years ago” Don’t think the answer helps him, though.

* Finally off Middle East. Time for some China-bashing!

* Obama manages to get steel and tire workers in Ohio into his “fighting China” rap, plus shot at Mitt.

* Interesting. Before China-bashing, Obama said “terrorist networks” top security threat, Romney said “nuclear Iran.”

* Mitt opens soft on China, then uses same lines on America’s “resolution” and perceived “strength” as keys to dealing with China.

* Libertarians probably freaking out at Mitt’s rap.

* Obama takes nasty shots at Mitt on investments in China, auto industry, tax treatment of overseas earnings, then goes wonky.

* Mitt picks auto industry attack as the one to rebut. Don’t know who advised him to mention the word “bankruptcy.” Kinda strange Obama is interrupting him when he’s not exactly helping himself. Maybe Obama wants to run out clock on auto industry in “foreign policy debate.”

* Now we’re onto Solyndra, which gives Obama chance to respond. But he goes back to auto industry, and then general rap on Romney budget, then even back to Bush!

* Looks like Romney will close on economic referendum rap. Best he can do. And it’s by far the most effective point he’s made tonight.

* Closing statements: Obama does distilled version of Clinton convention speech, plus stressing second-term agenda without adding anything new.

* Romney: Takes about thirty second on foreign policy, then changes “economic referendum” rap into “two futures” choice, then repetition of bipartisanship pledge, which he can get away with because his party’s base doesn’t believe it.

Having not seen any tweets or spin, I thought Obama won comfortably, but mainly because Romney seems to have decided that two or three repetitions of his economic referendum rap–and showing he wasn’t a war-monger–was all that mattered.

Back in a bit after assessing what others say.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.