Foreign policy is suddenly front and center in the presidential race. After reports of attacks in Libya and Egypt over a film denigrating the Prophet Muhammed — which have left the U.S. ambassador to Libya and perhaps several other Americans dead — Mitt Romney released a statement that said:

“It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn the attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

It appears Romney’s statement was released before we knew the identity of the victim, but after it was known that a U.S. official had been killed. Last night, RNC chair Reince Priebus said this: “Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.”

The basis for these claim­­s appears to be that the U.S.embassy in Cairo had released a statement condemning efforts to “hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” This had already angered conservatives, and Romney and the RNC are now claiming that this constitutes Obama sympathizing with the attackers. McKay Coppins reports that the embassy statement came before the attacks, and the Obama administration claims it wasn’t cleared by Washington.

I continue to wonder whether Republicans actually believe this kind of stuff will resonate with perceptions of Obama among persuadable and undecided voters, given Obama’s consistently high marks on national security and terrorism. It’s yet another sign of Republicans attacking the version of the President who is a figment of the GOP base’s imagination, rather than the one swing voters perceive. This latest attack is still more evidence that Romney no longer thinks he can win this election on the economy alone.

According to Josh Rogin, the Romney campaign is going to broaden its case by linking these attacks to Obama’s “failure to assert American leadership throughout the Arab spring.” One wonders whether Romney — who has been widely criticized for failing to spell out his own foreign policies with any meaningful specificity, even as he attacks Obama as a weak appeaser on any number of fronts — will take this occasion to spell out clearly how he would handle the situation.

At any rate, as Blake Hounshell writes, the intersection of this crisis with presidential politics will make for a combustible mix, and could make it tougher for the White House to approach this with the care that’s needed.

* Obama campaign hits back at Romney attack: The statement from Obama spokesman Ben La Bolt:

“We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack.”

* Obama condemns violence: The President’s statement seeks to strike the right balance:

“I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.”

* Why Romney and Republicans attacked: Steve Kornacki absolutely nails it:

The foolishness of Romney’s reaction is glaring. Pretending that the statement from the U.S. embassy in Cairo was anything other than a completely understandable and reasonable attempt by its occupants to save their own lives borders on disgraceful. Romney’s implication that the statement was issued at the height of the attacks is also false; it was actually released earlier in the day, a preventive measure aimed at keeping the protests from turning violent....This is the kind of nonsense you’ll get when one party spends four years convincing itself that a president is something he isn’t.

* Obama campaign sharpens attacks on Romney over taxes: The Obama campaign is up with a new ad in four swing states that hits Romney’s tax plan, noting that it would have to raise taxes on the middle class to pay for itself. The ad ties Romney’s refusal to release his returns to his Romney’s refusal to detail his policies, claiming: “Mitt Romney: He won’t tell you what’s in his taxes, and he won’t tell you what he’d do to yours.”

I recently argued that Dems had to sharpen their message on taxes by spelling out more clearly what Romney’s proposing; this ad does that.

* Obama’s electoral college advantage: Chris Cillizza has a good road map: Obama has far more paths to victory than Romney does, and he enters the race’s final stretch with a cushion to ward off any momentum the Romney camp gains from its financial advantage. Key fact: Romney holds a lead in only one of the eight toss-up states.

* Senate map scrambled by surprises: Josh Kraushaar has a useful overview of the current state of play in the Senate races, where a handful of surprises on both sides have scrambled both parties’ routes to victory. The main question is whether the unexpected strength of several Democratic candidates in three red states — Missouri, North Dakota and Indiana — will be enough to enable Dems to offset GOP gains in blue states, including Massachusetts, and to hold on to the Senate.

* Chicago teacher strike has far reaching implications: Harold Meyerson explains how the strike could go a long way towards determining the fate of labor within the Democratic party , which, in turn, could have important implications for the party itself.

* And why no discussion about the relatively good economic news? As Jonathan Easley writes, the jobs report is only a part of the story:

The Dow Jones Industrial Average on Tuesday closed at its highest mark since December 2007, and as the Democrats gathered in Charlotte, Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index surged 11 points to its highest level since January 2008. It was the largest one-week gain for the index, surpassing the 10-point bump following the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The fact that stuff like this gets so little attention comparatively underscores how out of control the hyping of the monthly jobs numbers as the only metric to judge Americans’ perceptions of the economy has gotten.