WASHINGTON – One day out from their last debate, Republican Mitt Romney and President Obama were cramming foreign policy and taking a rare break from swing-state campaigning.
Todays faceoff in Boca Raton, Fla., represents one of the last major opportunities for Obama and Romney to capture the attention of millions of voters – especially that small but sought-after group of voters who say they havent yet made up their minds.
Obama was holed up in Camp David in Marylands Catoctin Mountains, where he arrived Friday to prep for the debate, a 90-minute encounter focused on international affairs. With him at the presidential retreat were a band of top advisers including National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, campaign strategist David Axelrod and White House senior adviser David Plouffe.
Romney planned to spend the weekend in Florida, continuing intensive preparation that has consumed large amounts of his time in recent weeks.
Foreign policy has surfaced as a prominent issue in the waning weeks of the race, elevated by a deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and a restive situation in Syria. Although polls show voters continue to prioritize economic issues, both candidates are aggressively pitching themselves as more competent to be commander in chief.
Applying pressure on Obama were prominent Romney supporters, who took to the Sunday talk shows to argue the president has weakened national security and failed to lead other nations in confronting major global problems.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who played Obama in Romneys debate preparations, lashed out at the president on NBCs Meet the Press over a New York Times report Saturday claiming that Iran and the U.S. have agreed in principle to direct negotiations for the first time. The White House later said it is prepared for one-on-one talks but that theres no agreement now to meet.
Portman said the report appeared to him to be another example of a national security leak from the White House.
Theyve done a lot of that, he added, alluding to accusations over the summer that Obamas administration was leaking security information for political gain.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obamas former chief of staff, said that when the president took office, the U.S. was isolated from the global community over efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Three and a half years later, the tables have been turned. Iran is isolated from the rest of the world, Emanuel told ABCs This Week. Now, that was steady, determined, dogged leadership, setting out a course.