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Ahead of debate, Romney calls Obama weak on foreign policy
BURLINGTON, Mass. — Republican challenger Mitt Romney launched a fresh attempt on Monday to paint President Barack Obama as weak on foreign policy, saying he has let U.S. leadership atrophy, while the two candidates prepared for Wednesday's critical first debate.
Romney's aides said the weak U.S. economy remains his chief priority heading into the Nov. 6 election, but the Democratic President's handling of national security is also fair game.
This line of attack could be tricky for Romney, who drew heavy criticism for a hasty initial reaction to upheaval in Egypt and Libya last month in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya was killed in an attack along with three other Americans.
Romney is under enormous pressure for a good performance at Wednesday night's debate in Denver. His campaign has looked shaky since a leaked video emerged two weeks ago in which Romney says 47 percent of Americans are “victims” who depend on government, do not pay federal income taxes and are unlikely to support him.
Seeking to take some of the shine off Obama's national security credentials, which include the 2011 killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the Romney team is aiming to portray Obama as overseeing a period of American decline in the world.
In a Wall Street Journal opinion article, Romney accused Obama of being too timid in responding to the Syrian civil war, the election of an Islamist president in Egypt, the attack on the U.S. mission in Libya, and the threat of Iran developing a nuclear weapon it could use against U.S. ally Israel.
“These developments are not, as President Obama says, mere 'bumps in the road.' They are major issues that put our security at risk,” Romney wrote.
“Yet amid this upheaval, our country seems to be at the mercy of events rather than shaping them. ... 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,” Romney wrote.
Taking aim at Obama on national security may be an uphill battle for Romney. Reuters/Ipsos poll findings show Americans believe Obama has a better plan to deal with the threat of terrorism by 43 percent to about 30 percent for Romney.
Romney continues to trail Obama in opinion polls five weeks before the election. Obama maintained a lead of 5 percentage points — 46 percent to 41 percent — in a Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll released on Monday. Last Thursday, the same poll showed Obama with an advantage of 7 points.
A CNN poll on Monday gave Obama a narrow lead of 50 percent to 47 percent, and the two men were essentially tied on the issue of who would handle the economy better.
“I think even our opponents will agree right now that this is a closing race,” Romney senior adviser Kevin Madden said.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll released on Monday showed Obama leading by 11 percentage points among likely voters in nine battleground states where the election likely will be decided, even as the race is essentially tied nationally.
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