Voters have signaled for months – years, really – that their November decision will hinge on the economy. It's part of the reason Mitt Romney, he of the vaunted private-sector experience, is where he is: nominated and virtually deadlocked with President Obama.
And the two candidates’ fiscal and economic positions offer the electorate a fairly clear choice. But that's a split decision compared to their foreign policy differences. Their reactions today to the killings in Libya of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans laid bare the differences.
"It’s a hit-or-miss approach, but it has not been based on sound foreign policy," Romney said of Obama's handling of global affairs. Romney didn't shrink from his campaign's earlier statement ripping Obama for an embassy statement looking for common ground with the Muslim world. The campaign’s message was largely of a piece with Romney’s longer-running criticism that Obama has mishandled American standing abroad.
In the Rose Garden, moments after Romney spoke, Obama denounced the violence and praised Stevens's "skill, courage, and resolve," and he did not engage with Romney. Obama’s unemotional remarks, denouncing the violence but clearly tailored not to antagonize Muslims, also fit neatly with the image he has cultivated. While Republicans charge consistently that Obama apologizes for America, he is plainly unapologetic about the foreign policy route he has chosen.
The election is still likely to boil down to the economy. But on foreign policy, there is no mistaking one candidate for the other.
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRESIDENTIAL RACE REPORT
Obama: Romney Has Tendency to ‘Shoot First, Aim Later’
[Politico, 9/12/12] “Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later," Obama told 60 Minutes’ Steve Kroft on Wednesday. “As president, one of the things I've learned is you can't do that."
Amid Crisis, Romney Picks a Big Fight NEW!
[National Journal, 9/12/12] Mitt Romney has picked a big fight fraught with political risks, nd by the end of the day on Wednesday, he walked straight into a stiff-arm from the commander-in-chief—one that may leave a mark and intensify scrutiny of Romney’s foreign-policy qualifications.
Dems Widen Enthusiasm Gap NEW!
[National Journal, 9/12/12] Though Republicans had an enthusiasm edge in March, Democrats have been more engaged since June, and they’ve now added to that lead, a Pew survey finds.
Hill GOP Leaves Romney out on Limb on Libya NEW!
[Politico, 9/12/12] Republican leaders in Congress left Obama out of their statements on attacks that killed America’s ambassador to Libya, conspicuously steering clear of Mitt Romney’s political attacks on the administration.
Romney Campaign Denies Acting Rashly on Libyan Situation
[National Journal, 9/12/12] Romney’s campaign denies it acted rashly in condemning the Obama administration’s reaction to turmoil in Egypt and Libya. National Journal's Major Garrett writes that the larger point of Romney’s statement was that Obama is misreading the violent underbelly of the Arab Spring and jeopardizing U.S. interests in the region.
With Attacks in Middle East, Campaign Turns to Foreign Policy
[CNN, 9/12/12] Amid criticism of his attacks on the Obama administration, Romney did not back down, adding that the administration's response to attacks in the Middle East sent “mixed signals” and suffered from “a lack of clarity.”
Springboard or Setback? Romney Sought, Now Faces Foreign-Policy Test
[National Journal, 9/12/12] Romney’s campaign insists it will ignore criticism that it jumped the gun on the Libya situation, doubling down on its determination to use extremist violence in Benghazi and Cairo to criticize Obama’s foreign policy. But National Journal’s Major Garrett writes that Romney today looked more like a political opportunist than a commander in chief.
Romney Camp Tries to Manage Fallout from Libya Response
[CNN, 9/12/12] The campaign has issued talking points instructing Republicans to attack Obama’s “foreign policy of weakness” and defend the timing of Romney’s controversial statement released last night.
Two Election Models, Like Recent Polls, Tilt Toward Obama
[9/12/12, Los Angeles Times] In two complex statistical models meant to forecast election results, Obama’s chances of winning this year have hit new highs.
After Convention, Half of Americans Talking About Obama
[National Journal, 9/12/12] Fully half of Americans were talking about Obama on Saturday — the highest volume of talk about the president since Conversation Nation began tracking it in May. Positive talk about Obama increased by 2 percentage points over the week of the Democratic National Convention.
When Candidates Pay a Visit, Not All Charges Are Reimbursed
[Las Vegas Sun, 9/12/12] Each time a presidential candidate comes to Nevada, which is in the political crosshairs as a swing state this year, campaign staffers work out event logistics while various agencies coordinate security. Some costs are reimbursed; others are not.
Southern Bigotry Against the Rich, Mormons Could Hurt Romney
[Los Angeles Times, 9/11/12] A Reuters/Ipsos poll shows that some middle- and lower-income whites in the South are even more prejudiced against a candidate who is Mormon or who they consider “very wealthy” than they are against voting for a black man.