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Can foreign policy be a winning issue for Republicans?

President Barack Obama, center rear, gathered with G7 world leaders clockwise from center left, European Council president Herman Van Rompuy, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron, US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, in The Hague, Netherlands. (AP Photo/Jerry Lampen)

Conventional wisdom has it that Americans don't care about foreign policy because they're tired after more than a decade of conflict. But they're certainly paying attention.

All it takes is the right combination of events to make it a winning campaign issue. This year it's voter dissatisfaction with President Obama's approach, highlighted by his weak response to the crisis in Ukraine, combined with the growing realization that the president's spending plan for the Pentagon would leave the U.S. dangerously unprepared to meet challenges from foreign powers that can't be resolved by diplomacy alone.

Polls have shown most Americans disapprove of Obama's handling of foreign policy in the weeks since a change of government in Kiev put Russia on the path to seize Crimea and menace the rest of Ukraine. And potential GOP candidates are taking notice: Over the weekend, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker were among four 2016 hopefuls laying out their foreign policy vision for donors at the Republican Jewish Coalition's annual spring meeting in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, two other hopefuls, Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., have been feuding over the issue.

A high-profile diplomatic success by Obama could defuse the issue and boost the chances of Democrats, especially former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But the president's latest moves indicate he's more likely to give Republican candidates plenty of opportunity to show how they can do better.

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