PUEBLO, Colo. (AP) — Mitt Romney led a chorus of Republican criticism of the administration's foreign policy on Monday, accusing President Barack Obama of minimizing the recent killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya as a mere "bump in the road" rather than part of a chain of events that threatens American interests.
White House press secretary Jay Carney called the accusations "desperate and offensive" as Romney and his allies sought to gain political advantage in the latter stages of a political campaign that seems to be trending Obama's way.
The president did not comment on the criticism when he and first lady Michelle Obama taped an appearance on ABC's "The View" that blended the personal with the political. Asked if a Romney presidency would be a disaster, Obama said the nation can "survive a lot." He added: "The American people don't want to just survive, we want to thrive."
The back and forth on foreign policy occurred as Romney said he was shifting to a more energetic schedule of public campaign events, bidding to reverse recent erosion in battleground state polls. After days spent largely raising campaign cash — and trying to minimize the fallout from one speech to donors last spring — he pledged to make the case for "real and positive change."
While national polls make the race exceedingly close, Obama has gained ground on Romney in many recent surveys when potential voters are asked to compare the two rivals in their ability to fix the economy. Sluggish growth and national unemployment of 8.1 percent make the economy by far the dominant issue in the race, and the two men have focused much of their time and advertising budgets on highlighting their differences on taxes, spending and plans for job creation.
The same polls show Obama with a healthy lead over Romney when voters are asked which candidate is better equipped to handle foreign policy, and the president has not shied away from trumpeting his decision to order the secret mission by U.S. forces that killed terrorism mastermind Osama bin Laden in his Pakistani hideout more than a year ago.
At the same time, Romney's advisers say voters are more inclined to question Obama's handling of foreign policy after the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, earlier this month resulted in the death of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
Not only Romney, but other Republicans, as well, challenged Obama on foreign policy on Monday.
In a conference call with reporters, Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the House majority leader, said: "Israel continues to find itself on the receiving end of harsh language by the president of the White House. ... There is a somewhat continued pattern of throwing Israel under the bus when Israel stands as our closest ally."
And the National Republican Senatorial Committee issued challenges to Democratic candidates in several races to "share their view" on Obama's remarks in an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" over the weekend.
In the interview itself, Obama was responding when asked if recent events in the Middle East gave him pause for supporting governments that came to power following a wave of regime changes known as the Arab Spring.