Why has Mitt Romney stopped attacking Obama on Libya?

Team Romney initially vowed to hit back hard after Mitt botched his Benghazi attack in the last debate. But since then, crickets

Mitt Romney has suddenly gone quiet on his Benghazi attacks against President Obama.
(Image credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

After Mitt Romney's stumble over the Libya attacks in this week's debate, his campaign promised to "aggressively prosecute President Obama's handling of the situation," says McKay Coppins at BuzzFeed. A day and a half later, though, that plan has yet to materialize, other than a web video arguing that Obama waited two weeks to emphatically label the Benghazi attack as an act of terror. One "campaign official, granted anonymity to discuss strategy, said their plan to re-litigate the Libya issue was postponed when instant polls and focus groups immediately after the debate showed Romney winning exchanges about the economy, deficit, and gas prices. In the time between the Tuesday night spin room, and the candidate's Wednesday morning rally, Romney's team decided they would build on their momentum in those areas, rather than play defense on foreign policy." Is that really why Romney is no longer challenging Obama over Benghazi?

Romney blew his Benghazi criticism: Romney's fumble made it "harder for him to continue using the incident as the heart of his wider complaint" about Obama's foreign policy record, say Scott Wilson and Anne Gearan in The Washington Post. Before the debate, Romney's charge that Obama waited two weeks to use the word "terror" to describe the attack was a staple of his stump speech. But after Obama and moderator Candy Crowley smacked Romney down on that claim, it's no longer a winner. Romney has to find a new angle.

"Romney's missteps on Libya may hurt criticism of Obama's foreign policy"

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Mitt is just focusing on the economy — his main selling point: There was a flip side to Romney's fuzziness on Libya, says Seth Mandel at Commentary. It drew the attention to "his fluency and preparation for questions on the economy, and Romney's continuing bet that the economy will overshadow the other issues in voters' minds." Obama won the night, narrowly, but Romney trounced him on the economy, so it makes sense to stress his strong points in the limited time left before election day.

"On economic issues, Romney wins big"

There's still plenty of time to pivot back to foreign policy: Romney's at a bit of a disadvantage on foreign policy issues, says Kenneth T. Walsh at U.S. News & World Report, "since he doesn't live with foreign policy decisions day in and day out the way an incumbent president does, and has less natural familiarity with them." So he's going to have to study up on world affairs to "be ready to go on the offensive" in Monday's final debate, which is dedicated to foreign policy. You can expect to hear plenty more on Libya then.

"Third debate will be foreign policy finale"

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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