Washington: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney hoped to overcome voter perceptions that he lacks the substance and experience to handle US foreign policy as he headed overseas on Wednesday for visits to key US allies Britain, Israel and Poland.
He left behind a sweeping indictment of President Barack Obama’s foreign and military policy, including charges that the White House sought political gain by leaking classified details of the military raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
The close presidential race has taken a sharp detour from its focus on the struggling US economy that has stubbornly high 8.2 percent unemployment more than three years after Obama took office.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll published Tuesday showed Romney leading Obama 43 percent to 36 percent on which candidate is seen as better equipped to improve the economy.
The same poll showed Obama is viewed as a better commander in chief, 45 percent to 35 percent. Last week, a CBS News/New York Times poll found 47 percent of voters said Obama would do a better job handling foreign policy, while 40 percent chose Romney.
Romney hopes to overcome that gap by venturing overseas.
He arrived on Wednesday in London, where he will attend the opening of Olympic Games on Friday and plans to meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron. He also plans to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel.
After Romney’s sharp attack Tuesday, the president’s supporters answered with a new ad attacking the Republican candidate, using his tenure as head of the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The ad shows video clips of Olympic teams from various countries. It claims Romney has questionable links to some of those nations, including China, which the ad says gained thousands of jobs through Romney’s private sector outsourcing, and Switzerland, where Romney once kept a bank account.
Obama has tried to turn Romney’s history as a businessman — the Republican’s main argument that he is the best candidate to lift the economy — into a negative. The president and his campaign say Romney’s Bain Capital private equity firm closed US businesses and moved those jobs abroad.
The president’s team is also trying to cast Romney as a national security lightweight
Romney’s campaign has swatted away that criticism, but it’s also shown few signs that he will offer more specific areas of contrast with Obama when he meets with world leaders. Instead, Romney has cast Obama as a timid leader who has stood by as Washington lost global supremacy.
“If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on earth, I am not your president. You have that president today,” the former Massachusetts governor told an appreciative audience at the national Veterans of Foreign Wars convention on Tuesday.
Romney also criticized Obama over potential cuts in the defense budget and critiqued his handling of Iran’s nuclear threat and the violence in Syria. He said he would reset Obama’s reset with the Kremlin, but he did not elaborate on how. He also said he will restore the U.S.-Israel relationship and make the Jewish state his first foreign destination as president.
Vice President Joe Biden responded for Obama, saying Romney “reflexively criticizes the president’s policies without offering any alternatives.”
The most serious charge among Romney’s many allegations against Obama was the accusation of leaking secrets for political gains. Romney demanded that a special independent counsel be assigned to investigate to ensure that those involved are “exposed, dismissed and punished. The time for stonewalling is over.”
Attorney General Eric Holder already has appointed two federal prosecutors to investigate the leaks, but Romney suggested that wasn’t good enough.
During a news conference last month, Obama called the leak accusations “offensive” and “wrong.”
Obama was in New Orleans on Wednesday for more fundraisers and a speech to the National Urban League.