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Romney Will Turn Focus to Middle East Foreign Policy

The Morning Line

President Obama and Mitt Romney will meet in exactly two weeks for their third and final debate, a faceoff that will focus exclusively on foreign policy and national security issues. But the GOP presidential nominee has decided not to wait those 14 days to draw contrasts on such matters, traveling Monday to Virginia Military Institute to ratchet up his criticism of the president’s handling of foreign affairs.

Romney will say, “It is time to change course in the Middle East,” according to excerpts of the speech released Sunday. The move suggests that the Republican senses an opportunity to go after the president on an issue that has, for much of the campaign, been considered one of the Democrat’s strengths.

“I know the president hopes for a safer, freer and a more prosperous Middle East allied with the United States. I share this hope. But hope is not a strategy,” Romney is expected to say. “We cannot support our friends and defeat our enemies in the Middle East when our words are not backed up by deeds, when our defense spending is being arbitrarily and deeply cut, when we have no trade agenda to speak of, and the perception of our strategy is not one of partnership, but of passivity.”

The Obama campaign is using the occasion to release a television ad attacking Romney for his various foreign policy gaffes. The 30-second spot, titled “Policy,” will air in Virginia, aimed at the large number of defense industry and military personnel in the state. It slams the GOP hopeful for stumbling during an overseas trip last July and for rushing to respond to the recent violence in Egypt and Libya before all the facts were known.

Watch the ad here or below:

Both sides have seized on the events in Libya to frame the foreign policy debate on their terms. Romney has leveled sustained criticism of the president and his administration for failing to provide a clear picture of what happened in the attack on the consulate that left four Americans dead, including Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

“The attacks on America last month should not be seen as random acts. They are expressions of a larger struggle that is playing out across the broader Middle East — a region that is now in the midst of the most profound upheaval in a century. And the fault lines of this struggle can be seen clearly in Benghazi itself,” Romney will say Monday.

The Republican will add: “The attack on our consulate in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012 was likely the work of the same forces that attacked our homeland on September 11th, 2001. This latest assault cannot be blamed on a reprehensible video insulting Islam, despite the administration’s attempts to convince us of that for so long. No, as the Administration has finally conceded, these attacks were the deliberate work of terrorists who use violence to impose their dark ideology on others, especially women and girls; who are fighting to control much of the Middle East today; and who seek to wage perpetual war on the West.”

The Obama team released a memo Monday from national security advisers Michele Flournoy and Colin Kahl that said Romney had “no credibility” on Libya and charged that his response to the events there raise questions about his judgment to be commander in chief.

Governor Romney’s unseemly response to the tragic murder of our Ambassador in Libya raises further questions about his judgment on national security issues. Let’s acknowledge first that international crises happen during every administration, and the real question for voters is who they want to be commander-in-chief when they do. And the clear choice in this election was brought into stark relief when the situation in Benghazi unfolded.

Governor Romney’s first (and second and third and fourth) instinct was to play politics with the tragedy and attempt to score political points in any way he could. As Romney said he would do in that leaked fundraiser video, he has tried to take advantage of an international crisis for pure political gain. That’s not only cynical – it’s offensive.

Governor Romney’s response to the situation in Benghazi was calculated and irresponsible.

While foreign policy will take center stage Monday and again on Oct. 22, it’s important to keep in mind that most voters rate the economy and jobs as the key issues of this election. It’s those pocketbook items that will likely decide the winner come Election Day.

GOP STILL AKIN IN MISSOURI

The NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill went to the Show Me State for a field report on how Sen. Claire McCaskill is suddenly the luckiest woman in politics. The Missouri Democrat was written off by the party months ago, but GOP Rep. Todd Akin’s primary victory and quick plunge in the polls after making controversial remarks about rape and abortion have turned the contest on its head.

Gwen talked with former GOP Sen. Jack Danforth, who bemoaned the direction of his party, and had interviews with both Akin and McCaskill.

“I have been in gas stations in different places,” Akin said. “People come up. I don’t know if they’re going to hit me or love me … and people say, ‘I’m going to vote for you. Don’t you step down. We chose you. We expect you to go and win this race.'”

He went on to align McCaskill closely with President Obama.

“She’s trying to say that she is mainstream, but when you vote with Barack Obama 98 percent of the time, it’s hard to say that with a straight face,” he said.

In ways, the race has become an effort of each candidate to push one another further into the political fringes.

McCaskill hit back: “He believes that the federal government shouldn’t tell employers that they are limited in terms of how they can discriminate against women. It’s not that we’re on opposite ends; it’s just he’s so far from the middle.”

Watch Gwen’s report here or below:

Then, check out the NewsHour’s online elements for the piece, including: extended interviews with both Akin and McCaskill and Gwen’s Take: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Todd Akin?

MARK AND DAVID

After equating the close Senate race in Missouri to a Machiavellian drama, Mark Shields and David Brooks on Friday tackled the jobs report, which showed unemployment at 7.8 percent. The two went on to list candid reasons why Wednesday’s presidential debate actually mattered.

Watch the segment here or below:

In the Doubleheader, Hari Sreenivasan chatted with the guys about the sport of politics — namely the upcoming debate between Vice President Biden and GOP Rep. Paul Ryan — and the politics of sport. Plus, Shields said if you don’t like one of the teams in Major League Baseball, you’re “un-American.” Watch that here or below.

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • The Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee hauled in $181 million in September, a record high for the 2012 cycle.
  • We bring you the Monday morning ad round-up: Obama for America’s new “Dishonest” attack ad will air in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia. The president’s campaign also released a web video this weekend hitting Romney’s statements from the first presidential debate as lies that are part of a “performance.” The Romney team released an ad called “5 trillion,” which defends his tax plan. Liberal group Priorities USA released an education-focused ad called “Stick,” featuring forlorn looking youngsters and the line “If Mitt Romney wins, the middle class loses.”
  • Romney enjoyed the biggest debate win that Gallup has ever measured. And the presidential race is tightening, as 49 percent of registered voters are for Mr. Obama and 46 percent are for Romney, the poll said Monday morning. Another poll out Monday, the Politico/George Washington University Battleground Tracking Poll, has Romney up by one point in the days sandwiched between the first presidential debate and Friday’s jobs report.
  • The Tampa Bay Times’ Adam Smith looks at Miami-Dade, the strangest county in Florida that may help decide the next president.
  • Rep. Ryan’s office responds to letters from birthers by mailing them copies of Mr. Obama’s birth certificate.
  • The Atlantic offers up the best political memes inspired by Romney’s attack on Big Bird.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • American Journalism Review profiles one of the Washington Post’s top political writers: “Asking ‘What would Dan Balz think?’ is not out of the ordinary for many who have worked with him.”
  • Arizona’s Proposition 120 illustrates the continuing tension between the state and federal government.
  • Here’s where you can pay to view Saturday’s Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly debate.
  • The New York Times’ Peter Applebome looks at Republican Linda McMahon’s efforts to woo female voters in the Connecticut Senate race. Meantime, The Huffington Post reports on alleged plagiarism and leaks, “Linda McMahon Campaign Leaks HuffPost Reporter’s Emails To Bolster Its Ethical Bona Fides”
  • The Washington Post outlines the supplemental reading the Supreme Court has plowed through as it prepares to hear on Wednesday a major case on the constitutionality of affirmative action policy.
  • Democratic Sen. Mark Warner teams up with former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine in a new campaign ad for the latter’s senate race. NBC News’ Chuck Todd pointed out on Twitter that Warner holds clout with swing voters, but the spot still carries a risk.
  • The Hollywood Reporter outlines how the entertainment industry might split in the race for Los Angeles’ next mayor.
  • Politico’s John Bresnahan discovered this actual hip-hop video for a GOP candidate in Tennessee.

Christina Bellantoni and Meena Ganesan contributed to this report.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama announces the establishment of the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in Keene, Calif. He then travels to San Francisco for fundraisers at 7 p.m., 9:15 p.m. and 12:40 a.m.
  • Mitt Romney delivers a speech at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington at 11:20 a.m. and attends a rally in Newport News at 5:20 p.m.
  • Vice President Biden is in Wilmington, Del., with no public events scheduled.
  • Paul Ryan holds an event in Swanton, Ohio, at 11:30 a.m. and stops in Rochester, Mich., at 7:30 p.m.
  • Ann Romney campaigns in Chester, Va., dropping by She Chester at 11:55 a.m. and a Romney campaign office at 12:25 p.m.
  • Jill Biden campaigns in Pennsylvania, stopping in Harrisburg at 11 a.m., Scranton at 1:15 p.m., Hazelton at 3:15 p.m. and Allentown at 5:15 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan, @tiffanymullon, @dePeystah, @meenaganesan and @abbruns.

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