Mitt Romney has turned his fire on Barack Obama’s foreign policy saying the risk of conflict in the Middle East has grown under his presidency.
Mr Romney is hoping to undo a string of foreign policy stumbles, taking aim at an issue where polls show Mr Obama holds a clear lead.
Saying there is, “a longing for American leadership in the Middle East,” Mr Romney called for the US to take a more assertive role in Syria. He also wants new conditions on aid to Egypt and would impose tighter sanctions on Iran.
With the race growing tighter after Mr Obama’s poor performance in last week’s presidential debate Democrats and Republicans now are looking to Thursday’s debate confrontation between vice president Joe Biden and Republican Paul Ryan.
Both sides are bearing down on their attempts to draw in the small percentage of voters who remain undecided in fewer than 10 states, with Iowa, Ohio, Virginia and Florida all set for candidate visits this week.
The US president is not elected by the nationwide popular vote, but in a series of state-by-state contests.
In an election-year display of incumbent’s power, Mr Obama was declaring a national monument at the home of Latino labour leader Cesar Chavez, the United Farmworkers Union founder who died in 1993.
That is designed as an open appeal to Hispanic voters in swing states, before the president moves from Los Angeles to San Francisco for more fundraising.
Mr Romney intends his foreign policy speech as a vehicle to send tough signals on Iran and Syria and portray Mr Obama as weak for his administration’s changing explanation for the deadly attacks on the US consulate in Libya.
The Obama campaign was hitting back in advance.
“We’re not going to be lectured by someone who has been an unmitigated disaster on foreign policy,” a campaign spokeswoman said.
Voters give Mr Obama higher marks than Mr Romney on questions of national security and crisis response, but world affairs in general are a distant priority compared with the struggling US economy, polling shows. Nevertheless, Mr Romney will broaden his explanation of how he would serve as commander in chief.
After polls recently suggested Mr Obama had narrow leads in several swing states, the Romney campaign says the race is tightening following his strong performance in last week’s debate. To help maintain his momentum, Mr Romney has tweaked his message over the last week, highlighting his compassionate side and centrist political positions.
Mr Obama engaged in a bit of self-deprecation in his latest appearance, taking a good-natured shot at his own underwhelming debate performance last week, marvelling at how his friends in the entertainment business could turn in flawless showings every time.
“I can’t always say the same,” Mr Obama said of his debate performance, compared to those of his entertainment business friends. He spoke to thousands of supporters who got the joke. It was his most direct acknowledgment that Mr Romney won their debate as the campaign entered its final month.
Mr Obama appeared on stage after comments by actor George Clooney and performances by Katy Perry, Stevie Wonder, Jon Bon Jovi – and before a night-capping dinner for 150 guests at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant at €18,500 per person.
Mr Romney campaigned in equally important Florida, saying he had enjoyed himself in the debate, ticking off a list of Obama shortcomings he said he had exposed during the first debate.
“Now of course, days later, we’re hearing his excuses,” Mr Romney said. “And next January we’ll be watching him leave the White House for the last time.”