In turning to foreign policy, Mitt Romney is playing to a traditionally Republican strength while trying to build on momentum from his winning performance in last week's presidential debate.
He's also resurrecting an old GOP theme: that President Barack Obama's policies have reduced U.S. influence around the world — particularly in the Middle East.
"If America doesn't lead, others will, others who don't share our interests or our values," Romney told an audience Monday at Virginia Military Institute.
Romney has suggested in the past that Obama had "apologized" for U.S. behavior and values while overseas, an accusation not borne out by the facts.
While he didn't use such words on Monday, he said that friends and allies want more, not less, American leadership and that, "We must show them that we still have faith in ourselves."
Polls have shown that Obama generally does better on handling national security and foreign policy issues than the former Massachusetts governor.
Romney generally has dwelled more on U.S. economic woes. But with the economy showing some recent employment gains and last month's deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya and anti-U.S. protests in Egypt, his team saw a new opening on foreign policy.
Fighting back, Obama's campaign released a new TV ad in Virginia denouncing Romney's foreign-affairs policies as "reckless" and "amateurish."
"We're not going to be lectured by someone who's been an unmitigated disaster on foreign policy every time he's dipped his toe in the foreign policy waters," campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Romney also planned a rally in Newport News, Va.
On the other side of the country, Obama had three fundraisers in San Francisco and was declaring a national monument at the home of Cesar Chavez, the deceased founder of the United Farmworkers — a move no doubt calculated to help rally Latino support.
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