As the campaign enters its final month, President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are on opposite coasts, delivering starkly different messages today.
Romney will deliver a foreign policy address to formally dressed cadets at the Virginia Military Institute this morning, attacking Obama for what adviser Alex Wong called a foreign policy marked "by passivity, by delay and by indecision."
Later, he'll rally supporters in Newport News, Va., in the heart of a region dominated by military bases and defense contractors.
More than 2,000 miles away, Obama will travel to Keene, Calif., to dedicate a national monument in honor of Csar Chvez, the labor leader White House spokesman Jay Carney called "a civil rights icon who gave a voice to poor and disenfranchised workers everywhere."
It's the only official event in what's otherwise a two-day California fundraising trip, following up on an announcement Saturday that Obama had his best fundraising month of the campaign in September: $181 million.
Romney returns to battleground Virginia's Shenandoah Valley for the second time in a week. The military institute is the alma mater of George Marshall, the soldier-diplomat who was an architect of America's post-World War II global power. Romney has criticized Obama for abandoning a "bipartisan tradition" of foreign policy exemplified by Marshall.
Sunday, a trio of Romney foreign policy advisers repeatedly compared his foreign policy to the "peace though strength" approach of Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton -- and compared Obama's "weakness" to Jimmy Carter. They sidestepped a question about Romney's foreign policy doctrine. "You should always be careful about the use of the word 'doctrine,' " said Eliot Cohen, a Romney adviser who served under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the Bush administration.
The timing of the speech seizes on what Romney's campaign called a recent series of disturbing developments out of the Middle East: the assassination of the U.S. ambassador to Libya in Benghazi, growing Islamic influence in Egypt and Tunisia and escalating conflict in Syria.
The Obama camp said the Romney speech marks "his fourth or fifth retake at trying to lay out his foreign policy positions."
"We're not going to be lectured by someone who has been an unmitigated disaster on foreign policy every time he's dipped his toe in the foreign policy waters," said traveling spokeswoman Jen Psaki. "When he went overseas on his trip, the only person who has offended Europe more is probably Chevy Chase."
California's electoral votes are not in play, but the president has an aggressive fundraising schedule in Los Angeles and San Francisco, even after announcing his September haul, the biggest month of the campaign for either candidate. Romney has not announced September figures.
"It seems clear that many Obama supporters who were sitting on the sidelines became energized about this race last month," said Rick Hasen, a campaign-finance expert at the University of California-Irvine. "As in 2008, the Obama campaign will be extremely well-funded going into Election Day. But this time his opponent will be, too. Neither side will be able to blame a loss on a lack of money."
Obama's campaign hopes to put last week's lackluster debate performance behind it. Asked to identify a man getting off Marine One with the president, Psaki joked, "He's a new debate coach."
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