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President Obama’s foreign policy ratings — and what Mitt Romney is trying to do about it

at 02:02 PM ET, 08/02/2012

Mitt Romney’s overseas trip and a major address last month marked the Republican candidate’s biggest effort to date in the campaign to take on President Obama's foreign policy. In so doing, Romney has (perhaps sensibly) focused his attacks on issues where Obama is weak, but avoided major international issues where Obama boasts strong support or where his specific policies are overwhelmingly popular.


FILE - In this July 17, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks in Irwin, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
Indeed, while Republican President George W. Bush campaigned hard on national security issues against Sen. John Kerry in 2004 and Sen. John McCain was trusted much more than Obama on international issues, in 2012, the incumbent appears to have an edge.

Below is a rundown of what Romney has said on a range of foreign policies, and how popular (or not) Obama’s approach to those policies has been. 

Obama's weak spots 

Iran

Romney's emphasi s: Romney mentioned Iran seven times in his speech to the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars National Convention, and more than two dozen times speaking in Israel. He argued that the U.S. should use “any and all measures” to lead the effort to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, though he does not detail specific policy differences from Obama.

Obama’s standing: Obama gets mediocre ratings on Iran — 48 percent of voters approved of the president’s handling of the country in a May Fox News poll. But just 36 percent approved of his handling of “the possibility of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons” in a March Post-ABC poll. The public’s support for immediate military action in Iran is limited, however.

Israel

Romney’s emphasis: Romney has said the U.S. should stand strong with Israel, and criticized Obama for “lecturing” Israel's leaders.

Obama’s standing: Obama carried a 40 percent approval rating on the U.S. relationship with Israel in a March Bloomberg poll,with 42 percent disapproving. The public split about evenly in a Quinnipiac poll last October on whether Obama is a strong supporter of Israel or not. Obama held a 68 to 25 percent lead over Romney among American Jewish voters in Gallup polling from June through July.

Obama’s mixed reviews 

Afghanistan

Romney’s emphasis: In his VFW speech Romney advocated for affirming a clear mission and said a president should not “play politics with decisions of war.” He argued that premature withdrawal is actually a route to more war, but also aims to withdraw troops in 2012, matching Obama’s policy in that regard.

Obama’s standing: Only 47 percent of Americans approved of Obama's handling of Afghanistan in a May Post-ABC poll, but 78 percent approved of his Administration’s drawdown of U.S. troops in the country in February.

Obama’s strengths

Terrorism and bin Laden

Romney’s emphasis: Romney mentioned terrorism just twice in his AFW speech, in neither case advocating a different policy than Obama. He mentioned Osama bin Laden once, criticizing Obama for leaks of the operational details of the (successful) mission

Obama’s standing: More than six in 10 Americans approved of Obama’s job performance on terrorism Bloomberg News polls in March and June, and over three quarters in a Post-ABC poll last year said killing bin Laden has been effective in reducing the threat of terrorism

Drone attacks on terrorist suspects

Romney’s emphasis: Romney did not mention drones in either his AFW or Israel speeches. In the past, he has said he would continue to use drones in Pakistan.

Obama’s standing: More than eight in 10 approved of Obama’s use of drones against terrorist suspects overseas in a February Post-ABC poll.

Iraq

Romney’s emphasis: Romney did not take on Iraq policy in either speech.

Obama’s standing: A 54 percent majority Americans in a May NBC News /Wall Street Journal poll said Obama's approach to Iraq had “made things better” while just 13 percent said he made things worse. This was his single best rating across 12 separate issues. 

Guantanamo

Romney’s emphasis: Romney did not mention the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in either speech.

Obama’s standing: Seven in 10 Americans approved of Obama's decision to keep Guantanamo Bay prison open in a February Post-ABC poll.

 
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