LEXINGTON, Va. - Mitt Romney in a foreign policy address Monday accused President Obama of shunning his leadership responsibilities, jeopardizing U.S. interests in the Middle East and running a foreign policy based solely on political calculation.
"Hope is not a strategy," Romney said at the Virginia Military Institute. "We cannot support our friends and defeat our enemies in the Middle East when our words are not backed up by deeds."
Romney, riding a fresh wave of momentum from the first presidential debate, is looking to convince Americans that he is up to the task of assuming the role of commander in chief.
Romney also homed in on Obama's handling of the recent terrorist attack in Libya -- a terrorist attack that White House officials initially said was a random act of violence prompted by an anti-Islam video -- which killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
"The attacks on America last month should not be seen as random acts," Romney told the college-aged audience. "They are expressions of a larger struggle that is playing out across the broader Middle East - a region that's now in the midst of the most profound upheaval in a century."
The Obama campaign countered that Romney has already proven incapable of handling the foreign policy responsibilities that come with the presidency. A new Obama ad launched in Virginia rips Romney for questioning London's preparedness for the 2012 Olympics and rushing out a statement on the Benghazi attacks before the extent of the violence there was fully known.
Romney used his address as part of a broader message about the president's handling of the economy
"The president has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years. I will reverse that failure," Romney said.
Though the election will center on the economy, the Romney campaign sees a new opening to hit the president on national security. In the wake of the terrorist strike on the Libya consulate, the president's approval rating for foreign affairs dipped below the 50-percent mark in some surveys.
The Republican challenger also accused the president of being soft on Iran saying, "I will put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability."
And Romney painted Obama as more concerned with his own political prospects than strengthening America abroad, hitting the president for his swift troop withdrawal in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"America's ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence," he said.