The Romneys in VA today-Is foreign policy a big concern this election?
Who do you support when it comes to foreign policy? Is foreign policy one of your top concerns for this election?
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Every aspiring president must pass the commander-in-chief test, and that examination has not always been kind to Mitt Romney.
The former CEO, in his comfort zone when focused on the economy, has stumbled during his occasional forays into foreign policy. He offended his British hosts and Palestinian leaders during an overseas trip in July, failed to mention Afghanistan in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, and was roundly criticized for the timing of his assault on President Obama’s handling of violence in Libya.
But with the president now potentially vulnerable on issues such as Libya and U.S.-Israeli relations, the Romney campaign senses an opportunity to reshape an issue long seen as an Obama strength. Romney will give a major foreign policy address Monday in Virginia that aides said would advocate a “peace through strength” approach abroad and attack Obama’s leadership as weak, themes that Romney has been trying to push for months.
In excerpts of his speech released Sunday, Romney says, “It is time to change course in the Middle East.” He says he knows “the President hopes for a safer, freer, and a more prosperous Middle East allied with the United States. I share this hope. But hope is not a strategy. We cannot support our friends and defeat our enemies in the Middle East when our words are not backed up by deeds.”
The speech at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington will thrust foreign policy even more into the center of a campaign that until recently had been almost entirely about the economy. And that focus is expected to intensify as the two candidates debate foreign policy during their last one-on-one encounter, on Oct. 22.
Amid increasing questions about the Obama administration’s handling of the violence in Libya that killed four Americans — and with Romney gaining momentum from his widely praised performance in last week’s first debate — some experts think the speech is well-timed. Though Obama has consistently outpolled Romney on foreign affairs, that advantage has diminished. A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted just before the first debate showed Obama with a five-point edge in who is more trusted to handle international concerns, down from the president’s double-digit advantage earlier in the year.
“It’s understandable why he’s doing it now,” said David Rothkopf, a former senior Clinton administration official who is chief executive of Foreign Policy magazine. “The administration, which two to three months ago seemed unassailable on foreign policy and national security issues, now looks much more vulnerable because of what happened in Libya, because the entire Middle East is a mess, because of tensions between Obama and [Israeli leader Benjamin] Netanyahu.”
The Obama campaign, citing foreign policy achievements including the killing of Osama bin Laden and the U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, is undeterred. Campaign officials have accused Romney of flip-flopping on the U.S. mission in Libya and troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, and have pointed out that on some issues, such as the Iranian nuclear program, Romney has outlined positions similar to Obama’s. They also say most people don’t vote based on foreign policy, though it may be seen more broadly as part of a leadership test.
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