This election's third and final presidential debate sat like a minefield in front of Mitt Romney. It was his opportunity to sneak through and realize the opportunity to take the election down to the wire with a reasonable chance of winning, or make a wrong move and realistically end his hope of becoming president.
After taking command of the economic policy discussion following the first debate and swinging the momentum of the election in his favor, Romney demonstrated that he was more capable of guiding the United States economy out of its malaise over the next four years than President Barack Obama. What was still unproven, though, was how prepared Romney would appear to address questions regarding the diplomatic and commander-in-chief aspects of the job compared to someone with on-the-job training.
As a result, this debate wasn't actually about foreign policy -- there's not a dime's worth of difference between Obama and Romney, anyway. Their almost identical answers on strategies regarding Iran, Afghanistan, Libya and Israel, for better or worse, proved that.
Instead, this debate was a test for Romney to prove whether he could appear knowledgeable and reassuring about foreign enemies and domestic threats, whether the American people would trust him with the lives of the members of our armed forces and, ultimately, whether he came across as "presidential."
The president has access to daily issue briefings, the greatest foreign policy minds in the world and up-to-the-minute intelligence updates that simply aren't available to a challenger. As a result, it wasn't reasonable to expect that Romney could "win" this debate -- whatever winning a debate means, given that the nature of assessing a debate is subjective and perverted by biases and party loyalties. On Monday night, Romney only needed to hold his own, prove that he was knowledgeable and prepared, and leave Americans with the feeling that he would make a trustworthy commander-in-chief. On each of those counts, Romney unquestionably passed with flying colors.
Over the past month, Romney has done what few expected. He has turned this election from a very likely blowout, into a barnburner. After Monday night, barring unforeseeable gaffes in the next dozen days, it is now possible -- if a few states fall just right -- for Romney to become the President of the United States.