BURLINGTON, Mass. (AP) — Republican Mitt Romney is arguing America needs new foreign policy leadership, using President Barack Obama's handling of the Middle East as an opening to criticize the incumbent before Wednesday's first presidential debate.
With both candidates hunkered down and practicing for their first face-off, Romney is offering a mixed argument against the president after a rough month that left the Republican trailing the incumbent in swing states even as they are closely running in nationwide polls.
In an opinion piece published Monday in The Wall Street Journal, Romney tried to show how he could be a better commander in chief as he accused the administration of minimizing the seriousness of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya and other threats in the region. However, none of his ads running in the few states that will determine who will win the race mention world affairs and instead are focused heavily on the economy.
Romney's campaign had promised a focused argument against Obama's handling of the economy earlier this year. But tumultuous events overseas and the revelation of a secretly recorded video of Romney telling donors that 47 percent of the country believes they are victims entitled to government assistance has pushed his campaign off its planned course.
The first debate is focused on domestic policy, and Romney adviser Ed Gillespie acknowledged Monday that the former Massachusetts governor expects questions about the video.
Obama was huddling Monday with top advisers at a desert resort in Nevada. Romney had practice planned in Massachusetts, where he also spent most of the weekend working with his debate team. The Republican challenger was then headed to Denver, the site of the first debate, later Monday for a rally and more preparation for the high-stakes event.
Five weeks from Election Day, polls show Romney trailing Obama in many of the nine states that will determine the outcome of the White House race. The three October debates give Romney one of his best opportunities to stem Obama's momentum and convince the public to back his vision for the nation's future.