Obama aides acknowledge that the election results will almost certainly hinge on the economy. But they say international issues are another avenue for drawing a contrast with Romney and appealing to voters who remain undecided less than two months from Election Day.
That's why they reacted quickly when Romney made no mention of Afghanistan or the 77,000 troops still serving there when he accepted the Republican presidential nomination last month.
"It's more than an omission," said retired Gen. Wesley Clark, an Obama supporter. "It reveals a severe lack of understanding about the job of president, doesn't reflect well on what kind of leadership you would bring and frankly it's just unbecoming of someone who wants to become commander in chief."
Clark predicted veterans, who typically lean Republican, would start shifting in Obama's favor between now and November. Gallup's tracking poll over the month of August showed Romney leading Obama 55 percent to 38 percent among veterans.
Romney has dismissed the criticism surrounding his convention address, saying he discussed Afghanistan during a speech to the American Legion the day before
He also urged voters to focus on policies, not speeches.
"I have some differences on policy with the president," Romney said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." ''I happen to think those are more important than what word I mention in each speech."
His campaign also disputes the notion that national security is one of Obama's strengths.
"It's only because President Obama's failure on the economy has been so severe that his manifold failures on foreign policy and national security have been overshadowed," Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said.
Romney's team says that while the Obama administration was successful in eliminating bin Laden, a host of other national security priorities remain unresolved: Iran is still in pursuit of a nuclear weapon, and a civil war rages on in Syria.
Associated Press writer Philip Elliott, Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.
Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC .
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