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The GOP foreign-policy debate and 10 other reasons why Obama will win in 2012

Watching this weekend's Republican presidential debate on U.S. foreign policy, you might be forgiven if you thought it shed absolutely no light on U.S. foreign policy. After all, by definition ... and by God's good graces ... the views expressed represented those of people who will have precious little influence over America's international course. Only one of these people can be the Republican nominee. And, in part thanks to performances like what we saw on Saturday, even that individual is very likely not going to ever be president of the United States.

As a consequence the vapidity of Herman Cain is irrelevant. The pro-torture stance of the wing-nuts in the group is irrelevant. The ridiculous zero-based foreign aid formula suggested by Rick Perry is irrelevant. Even the pontificating of Republican non-Romney of the Month, Newt Gingrich is irrelevant. Because these weren't foreign policy ideas or positions. They were desperate cries for attention.

Sadly, also irrelevant will be thoughtful views offered by Jon Huntsman, who clearly distinguished himself as the most capable, thoughtful, experienced, and credible of the crew.

This means that the 30 minutes of the debate that CBS chose not to air will have a virtually identical impact to the 60 minutes of Obama-bashing, fear-mongering, and peacocking that actually were broadcast.

It is possible that some of the views that were offered by likely nominee Mitt Romney could be consequential. This would not seem to be good for U.S.-China relations except that there is virtually zero possibility that President Mitt Romney -- who would essentially be the hand-picked candidate of the business community and the major party presidential candidate with the closest ties to America's economic establishment in modern memory -- would actually follow through on his anti-Beijing saber-rattling once in office. Further, some of his statements were essentially meaningless to begin with -- like his assertion that a vote for him was the only way to avert Iran getting the bomb, not being backed by facts or even being remotely credible given how key what happens between now and when the next president takes office will be.

But more important still is that Romney isn't going to be the next President either. In all likelihood that will be Barack Obama. Here are 10 reasons why:

  1. Obama is the incumbent. That matters. And he has become increasingly confident in using the bully pulpit to his advantage, at appearing presidential. The crucial issue is going to be economics.

  2. Despite Europe's economic mess, a number of other factors suggest that the U.S. economy may begin to tick upward more during the next year. Other parts of the world are likely to be growing from the emerging markets to, in a modest way, Japan. More importantly, the likelihood that the U.S. unemployment rate declines the better part of a point to something closer to 8 percent is pretty good. That ought to be enough to make the case he avoided the abyss and turned things around in much the same way that Ronald Reagan did in 1984.

  3. Like Reagan, Obama is liked and seen as trying hard to do the right thing. That, plus some signs of progress goes a long way with the American people.

  4. Furthermore, none of these candidates are a Ronald Reagan. Moreover, none of them are even a George W. Bush, which is saying something. Mitt Romney is the whitest white man in America. He will look more like the establishment than Obama in an anti-establishment year. He will not get any journalistic good bounces because frankly it is hard to spin a narrative about the guy that will grab anyone's heartstrings. Want evidence, look at how desperately half the Republican party is at looking for alternatives.

  5. That search for alternatives could lead to a third party candidate. If it's Ron Paul it will eat into Romney's base. It is highly unlikely the left will pose a similar challenge to Obama. As for the possibility of a centrist third party candidate, appealing as it may be, it will be less so to many if it appears that candidate can't win and will only increase the likelihood that Mitt Romney will be elected on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ticket.

  6. While external events in the world -- like the Iranian detonation of a nuclear device or a terror attack -- could hurt Obama, in all likelihood, given his growing comfort with foreign-policy and the tendency of the American people to rally around the president in times of crisis, it would be a mistake to count on such a development being more likely to help the Republican candidate.

  7. The reality is that while foreign policy won't be central to the election, Obama has already succeeded in doing something remarkable: Taking it off the table. He is hard to criticize given his record with bin Laden, Al Awlaki, Qaddafi, meeting his promise in Iraq, starting to get out of Afghanistan, and restoring America's international reputation.

  8. We haven't gotten to the one-on-one segment of the campaign yet. Whoever is the Republican candidate has to run against the very disciplined, intelligent, well-prepared, charismatic president. Which of those folks you saw Saturday night can hold their own versus Obama?

  9. The Republican Party on the Hill, via the Tea Party and via its more extreme elements has adopted a bunch of policies that are astonishingly out of touch with the moment. They should be doing great given the economic problems. But they are not only seen as obstructionist on the Hill but they are seen as advocates of millionaires they don't want taxed and opposed to fairness in sharing the burden for the sacrifices fixing the economy will require.

  10. By extension the leading voices for the Republican Party are folks like those on the stage ... and John Boehner and Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell. Really? That's going to grab America in the current environment?

The electoral map says it will be close. But already Republican overreaching has pushed Ohio back toward Obama. The Republican hope re: Florida, Marco Rubio has suffered some self-inflicted wounds. Virginia gets bluer by the day. It's close ... but it's trending toward the President.

And so, while making predictions a year out is a sucker's game, for those of you who watched the Saturday debate and were disheartened there is at least all the above to suggest that none of it mattered that much anyway. As of right now the favorite to be the next president of the U.S. has to be the current president of the U.S.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

David Rothkopf

Eurorant of the day: Not sure who needs medication more, bipolar markets or the rest of us?

So let me see if I understand this latest round of eurozone mania. The crack dealers and the police have gotten two junkies onto methadone and we are supposed to celebrate? The junkies are still hooked. The dealers are still peddling their poison. The cops are still unable to address the core issues that are key to solving the long-term bigger drug problem. There's no political leadership to speak of the question. And therefore, no real progress has actually been made. Yet, down at Delancey's bar and stock exchange it's drinks all around.

What the heck, folks? Do we need to shove markets into a cold shower of perspective every day now? They veer from irrational fear to irrational exuberance with such regularity that I am starting to think that the solution to Europe's financial problems -- for which the above was an ever so subtle metaphor -- may actually be drugs. Like lithium maybe.

Today, the markets swing back to hope because Italy has taken steps to embrace austerity, Don Bunga Bunga is headed his next career as a professional defendant, and the Greeks and Italians both seem to be opting for technocrats to right their capsized economies. That these same technocrats bought into the mainstream delusions and misrepresentations and miscalculations that led to these problems in the first place is no matter. All that markets care about is that it seems like they will follow the banks' prescriptions for preserving bank cash flows at the expense of the people of their home countries. Or as it was put in my favorite tweet of the morning, from Dave Johnson retweeted by Markos Moulitsas, founder of the Daily Kos, "Greek PM says let PEOPLE vote, immediately booted, replaced by a BANKER."

(It's remarkable that the "moral" obligation of countries to repay debt that never should have been made available to them in the first place is actually so immoral -- both because it rewards enabling malefactors and because it penalizes innocents. The banks again make money coming and going as they did playing both sides on the volatile trading in between. Wouldn't the world be a better place if those who underwrote government debt couldn't also engage in trading it -- which creates the opportunity to profit from deals they might not otherwise do? I'm just saying...)

Meanwhile there is still no progress on the eurozone's larger structural issues. There is still no consensus about how to restore growth to the damaged economies of the south and those nearby who they are dragging down. There has really been no change ... except for the worse ... with regard to the financial soundness of many of Europe's big banks. There is still no orderly path by which a country can opt out of the eurozone ... even though the existence of such a path would have helped nip this problem in the bud even before it began. There is still no clarity about whether or not the countries of Europe want the ECB to have the resources and regulatory tools needed to actually effectively play the role of lender of last resort. And frankly, it seems ever less likely that the IMF will actually get the additional capital it needs to play the role for which it was envisioned.

Look, I've dated people who were more or less bipolar. I learned a few things from the experience. One was that while you were in the relationship it made sense to try make the most of the highs. They could be great. But I also learned that the lows were when you had moments of real clarity about the unsustainability of it all. The highs would always be a lie until you fixed the core problem. I also learned that took time and patience and often a radical restructuring of the relationship...by which I mean I discovered how healthy an exit can be for all interested parties. (On this point, see Paul Krugman's very good piece today entitled: "Legends of the Fail.")

I also discovered that you can't live on the roller coaster forever. It's just too damn exhausting. That's how I'm starting to feel about this problem in the Eurozone. And I am inclined to think that's how the world is starting to feel too. Patience with authorities who don't deal with the big issues and seek to frame every minor triumph as something larger than it is will wear thin. It won't just be the Papandreous and Berlusconis who won't survive all this. Absent real progress on the bigger issues, Eurocrisis fatigue will soon start doing in the Merkels, Sarkozys, and Camerons. That's the one thing that is clear. One way or another, as far as this crisis goes, it's probably best to stand clear of the door marked "Exit."

-/AFP/Getty Images