Romney pivots to foreign policy ahead of debates

Team Romney sees an opening in Obama's handling of the Libya crisis, but pundits question the wisdom of a renewed focus on international affairs

Mitt Romney
(Image credit: Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)

What happened: Days before the first presidential debate, which is to focus largely on domestic policy, Mitt Romney has published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal assailing President Obama on his foreign policy record. Pointing to recent instability in the Arab world, which saw the death of an American ambassador in Benghazi, Libya, Romney argues that Obama has allowed American "leadership to atrophy":

These developments are not, as President Obama says, mere "bumps in the road." They are major issues that put our security at risk.

Yet amid this upheaval, our country seems to be at the mercy of events rather than shaping them. We're not moving them in a direction that protects our people or our allies.

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And that's dangerous. If the Middle East descends into chaos, if Iran moves toward nuclear breakout, or if Israel's security is compromised, America could be pulled into the maelstrom.

We still have time to address these threats, but it will require a new strategy toward the Middle East.

The context: The Romney campaign reportedly feels that ongoing unrest in the Arab world, as well as the White House's shaky explanation for what happened in Benghazi, is an opening to be exploited. Romney is expected to refocus on foreign policy after this week's domestic issues debate with a major foreign policy address. American Crossroads, a conservative super PAC, is up with a new ad hammering Obama for his alleged foreign policy failings (see the ad below). And Craig Ungler at Salon reports that Republicans are preparing a new offensive for October called "The Jimmy Carter Strategy," in which Team Romney will attempt to draw a comparison between Obama's response to Libya and Carter's botched operation to rescue American hostages in Iran.

What people are saying: "After concluding the war in Iraq, drawing down troops in Afghanistan, and killing Osama bin Laden — effectively crippling al Qaeda's leadership — the president has been seen as strong on foreign policy in most polls," says Mike Vasilogambros at National Journal. And it "remains to be seen whether [foreign policy] is going to become a foreground issue for voters, who polls indicate remain overwhelmingly concerned with jobs as the main issue," says Maggie Haberman at Politico. However, if Team Romney makes "the case that the White House did not level with us about the Libya attacks," it could "turn a few heads," says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post.

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