Dems seek to exploit advantage on foreign policy

By Philip Elliott

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Sept. 2 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Secret Service agents stand guard as Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney walks to his car after services at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012 in Wofeboro, N.H.

Evan Vucci, Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Democrats sought to push foreign policy, one of President Barack Obama's strengths, to the forefront of the White House campaign Sunday, casting Republican Mitt Romney as out of touch with the nation's international priorities and unprepared to manage them.

Vice President Joe Biden, campaigning in Pennsylvania, painted Romney as a warmonger who opposes ending the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and is looking to start new military action in Iran and Syria. He made the claim without offering any proof.

"He said it was a mistake to end the war in Iraq and bring all of our warriors home. He said it was a mistake to set an end date for our warriors in Afghanistan and bring them home," Biden said. "He implies by the speech that he's ready to go to war in Syria and Iran. "

The campaign did not immediately respond to a request for details on Biden's claim.

It was a rare mention of foreign policy in a campaign that has been dominated by the economy. Polls show Obama leading Romney on who voters see as stronger on foreign policy issues, an uncommon advantage for Democrats on the issue.

Romney has said he would consider military action in Syria if the war-torn country's chemical weapons were at risk of falling into the wrong hands. Romney has also said the U.S. must keep all options on the table, including a military strike, when dealing with Iran.

Obama opposes military action in Syria, where activists says 20,000 people have been killed in 17 months of clashes between government forces and rebels. He also supports using diplomacy to resolve the stand-off over Iran's disputed nuclear program, though he too has said all options are on the table.

Romney raised eyebrows when he failed to mention the Afghan war during his prime-time speech at the Republican Party's national convention last week.

Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom on Sunday defended the omission during an interview on CNN's "State of the Union." Ferhnstrom said Romney had already addressed the issue the day before in a speech to the American Legion.

"But Gov. Romney's convention speech was an opportunity for him to introduce himself to millions of voters who were seeing him for the first time," he said. "In that speech, he accomplished what he set (out) to do, which is to talk about his better vision for America, with more jobs and increasing wages. He talked about the failures of the Obama presidency over the last four years."

Obama's campaign plans to play up that strength during the party's convention this week in Charlotte, N.C. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, a possible second-term secretary of state under Obama, will highlight the president's foreign policy record Thursday night before Obama formally accepts the Democratic nomination.

Obama himself trumpeted his foreign policy credentials Saturday during a rally in Des Moines, Iowa.

"I said we'd take out bin Laden and we did," said Obama, referencing the raid he ordered that led to the death of the al-Qaida leader.

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, an Obama supporter, previewed some of Kerry's likely message on Sunday.

"The president has gotten us out of Iraq. We're getting out of Afghanistan," Richardson said on CBS' "Face the Nation." ''We've got free trade agreements in Latin America we have a president that brilliantly dealt with the situation in Libya, with the Arab spring."

Romney spent Sunday at his New Hampshire vacation home. He and his wife, Ann, attended church services Sunday morning at the chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Wolfeboro, N.H.

Campaign officials said Romney would spend much of the Democrats' convention week preparing for the presidential debates.

Obama was campaigning Sunday in Boulder, Colo., where he planned to hold a rally with college students.

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