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Why Romney missed, Obama hit. And why it might not matter much.

The issue was teed up for Mitt Romney from the get-go at Monday night’s foreign-policy debate: What happened when four foreign-service workers were killed in Libya?

“Was it an intelligence failure? Was it a policy failure?” moderator Bob Schieffer asked. “Was there an attempt to mislead people about what really happened?”

The answer to the first two questions is probably “yes.” The last question, about misleading the American people, is being examined on Capitol Hill, where the Benghazi attacks are widely seen as an embarrassment for the Obama Administration.

But Romney didn’t say any of that.

Instead, the Republican challenger rattled of a litany of problems in the Middle East — from the fading hopes of the Arab Spring to the struggle of “women in public life” to the Bashar Assad regime’s killing of an estimated 30,000 civilians in Syria.

Then he mentioned Benghazi. But only briefly.

“We see in Libya, an attack apparently by, I think we know now, by terrorists of some kind against — against our people there, four people dead,” Romney said.

That was it. Opportunity missed.

That’s how much of the night went for Romney, who tacitly tried to blame Obama for much of the “chaos” in the Middle East. But when he had a shot to take, Romney didn’t at first.

And when Romney had a chance to draw clear distinctions with Obama, he often didn’t or couldn’t when it came to handling Iran, Egypt or Syria.

“What you just heard Governor Romney say is he doesn’t have different ideas. And that’s because we’re doing exactly what we should be doing,” Obama said during a discussion about Syria.

But Romney didn’t need to win Monday night’s debate.

Obama did.

And the president probably won, but he probably needed a far bigger win to clearly grab the lead. He didn’t score the type of knockout that Romney did during the first debate.

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