(AFP) – DENVER, Colorado — Romney arrived in the battleground state of Colorado two full days before the high-stakes face-off Wednesday, telling supporters “I look forward” to the presidential debates as a chance to lay out a grand vision for the country.
During a boisterous rally here late Monday Romney largely kept to his standard stump speech laying out how his policies would break the US economy out of its rut and create 12 million jobs.
But earlier in the day Romney had cast beyond US borders, suggesting that after weeks of turmoil sparked by an anti-Islam Internet video foreign affairs might get more attention in the final sprint to the November 6 vote.
He accused Obama of downplaying deadly violence in the Middle East and warned that the president’s policies have “heightened the prospect of conflict and instability.”
Obama “does not understand that an American policy that lacks resolve can provoke aggression and encourage disorder,” Romney wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.
“We’re not moving (events in the Middle East) in a direction that protects our people or our allies. And that’s dangerous.”
Romney is spending the next two days in Colorado undergoing final debate preparations, while Obama is hunkered down in Nevada as he strategizes and dusts off his debate skills.
As the two candidates readied for their showdown, Romney enlisted running mate Paul Ryan to strafe Obama’s Afghanistan policy.
Ryan said the White House made a “political decision” to draw down 22,000 troops in September, a move he warned would put the remaining US forces there in greater danger.
“They’re still fighting,” Ryan told conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham.
“We would never put politics ahead of what our commanders say is necessary to do the job and keep our soldiers as safe as possible when they’re prosecuting this war.”
Other Republicans also harshly condemned the administration, including Obama’s 2008 White House adversary John McCain.
“It’s unraveling all over,” Senator McCain told cable network MSNBC.
“Because of this failed national security policy, the chickens are coming home to roost in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Libya and of course in Syria, which continues to cry out for our help and leadership as people continue to be massacred.”
In addition to warning that Obama has not done enough to pressure Iran to curtail its nuclear program, Romney has seized on the attack on the US consulate in Libya that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans.
“We’ve seen fires burning in US embassies around the world,” he said in Denver, referring to the wave of protests set off by an amateurish anti-Islam Internet video produced by a California man.
Initially, US officials said the September 11 assault on the consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi was a violent demonstration inspired by a protest in Cairo in which demonstrators breached the walls of the US embassy.
But they are now describing it as a terrorist attack possibly linked to Al-Qaeda, fueling Republican claims that the administration mounted a cover-up to preserve the president’s favorable ratings on national security.
Romney’s comments came as the candidates prepared for what will undoubtedly be one of the most closely watched moments of the acrimonious 2012 race.
Both sought to downplay expectations — a standard US political strategy ahead of debates.
“The media is speculating already on who is going to have the best zingers… who’s going to put the most points on the board,” Obama told a rally in Las Vegas Sunday.
“Governor Romney, he’s a good debater… I’m just okay,” Obama quipped.
Romney joined in, telling his Denver crowd that “people want to know who’s going to win, who’s going to score the punches.”
“In my view it’s not so much winning and losing (but) an opportunity for each of us to describe the pathway forward for America that we would choose.”
Obama currently leads the national race by five points in the latest Gallup daily tracking poll and in most key battlegrounds.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll out Monday gave Obama a slimmer 49-47 percent lead, but likely voters in swing states sided with the president 52-41 percent.
Romney’s advisers insist his campaign has not lost focus in recent weeks, after a video emerged showing him saying 47 percent of Americans would never vote for him because they are too dependent on big government.
“Whether it’s health care, energy, taxes and spending or debt, the message is we cannot afford four more years like the last four years,” senior adviser Ed Gillespie said.