Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney leaves his campaign vehicle.
(Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images)
Gregory Korte, USA TODAY
A month before Election Day, President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are on opposite coasts, delivering starkly different messages to distinct audiences 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, President Obama will travel to Keene, Calif., to dedicate a national monument at the burial site of Cesar Chavez, the labor leader who 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 today for the second time in a week. The Virginia Military Institute venue is the alma mater of George Marshall, the soldier-diplomat regarded as an architect of America's post-World War II global power.
A former Massachusetts governor with no direct foreign policy experience, Romney has criticized Obama for departing from what he says is a "bipartisan tradition" 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 of how a Romney doctrine would compare to President George W. Bush. "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 emphasizes the importance of foreign policy to the Romney campaign and seizes on what his campaign called a series of disturbing developments out of the Middle East in the past month: 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 Obama campaign traveling spokeswoman Jen Psaki. "Just as a refresher, this is the same guy who, 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, so the only campaign reason for Obama's visit is to raise money. The president is continuing an aggressive fundraising schedule in Los Angeles and San Francisco, even after announcing having raised $181 million in September, the biggest month of the campaign for either candidate. Romney has not announced comparable figures.
Psaki said a Los Angeles event Sunday was actually a "thank-you event for a small group of donors" who had given the maximum amount allowed by law. She declined to name them.
"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 fundraising haul provides a lift to the campaign after a debate performance last week that even Obama supporters agreed was lackluster. When reporters asked Psaki for the name of a man seen getting off Marine One with the president, she joked, "He's a new debate coach."
Contributing: Fredreka Schouten and David Jackson