Five respondents said the president came out ahead, one called it a draw and one gave the victory to Romney. Most of respondents thought the Republican candidate demonstrated that he could effectively serve as commander in chief, but by and large, they said the president showed he had far more experience handling foreign affairs and promoting the country’s interests abroad.
Related: The complete small business guide to the presidential election
Meanwhile, though their final debate focused on matters of foreign policy, both presidential contenders found ways to connect their answers to the most pressing issue for voters in this election — the ailing economy. The candidates spent several minutes in the middle of the debate disputing specifically their starkly different views on how to bolster entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Heading into the night, our panel was split right down the middle in terms of their views on the election. Two business owners were firmly in the Obama camp and two were firmly in the Romney camp, one was leaning Obama and one was leaning Romney, and one of them was undecided. By the time the candidates shook hands and exited the stage, only one respondent had shifted, moving from “leaning” Romney to “firmly” Romney.
The lone undecided panelist did note afterward that (s)he was now undecided “more than ever.”
• Scott Graber — Colorado
Owner of San Luis Valley Brewing Company and San Juan Building Management Company in Alamosa
Reaction to the debate: “After watching all three debates, the questions for me is this: Do I believe that Obama inherited such a mess that he hasn’t quite been able to dig the nation out just yet, and if given four more years, he will? Or, do I believe that four years is a long enough to have made significant advances regardless of what he inherited? I don’t believe Obama’s policies and strategy for our nation has delivered the change he was elected to bring. But in a debate, I like aggressive, so I give Obama the nod in this one. Overall though, I don’t believe the majority of the nation wants to see a president on the attack this late in the game. I think Romney will fare well in the days to come.”
Biggest surprise: “Obama overly attacking, and Romney overly agreeable.”
Who won the debate?
• Jessica Hadler Baines — Florida
President of American Business Group Business Brokers in Orlando
Reaction to the debate:
“This missed the spirit of a traditional debate. I believe the town hall setting from the previous debate served both candidates well. Tonight’s debate concluded with both sides trying to hash out domestic issues, never fully addressing or resolving foreign matters. One, two, three, four. . . listing out numbers of plans will not cut it, nor will the stats determine this race. Americans will not listen to numbers alone. I feel both candidates were tired, as was I, with the last year’s worth of campaigning.”