PUEBLO, Colo. — Mitt Romney's campaign is trying yet again to find solid footing, shifting its line of attack toward a subject that President Barack Obama has widely been thought to hold the advantage: foreign policy.
The Republican candidate went on the offensive against Obama on his handling of overseas crises. And Romney was joined by his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who likened the current turmoil in the Middle East to the 1979 Iranian revolution.
In a round of interviews with ABC News, CBS News and NBC News on Monday morning in Denver, Romney attacked Obama for remarks he made Sunday night on 60 Minutes, in which the president called recent developments in the Middle East "bumps in the road." Romney reiterated his criticism again at an outdoor campaign rally in Pueblo, where he called the president's comments "very surprising."
"Bumps in the road?" Romney asked, as a grumbling murmur rippled through the crowd. "We had an ambassador assassinated. We had a Muslim Brotherhood elect a member, elected to the presidency of Egypt. Twenty thousand people have been killed in Syria. We have tumult in Pakistan, and of course Iran is that much closer to having the capacity to build a nuclear weapon."
He continued: "These are not bumps in the road; these are human lives — these are developments we do not want to see. This is time for a president who will shape events in the Middle East, not just be merciful or be at mercy of the events of the Middle East."
Romney's criticism comes as Obama is preparing today to address the U.N. General Assembly, where the main topic is expected to be the conflict in Syria and turmoil in the Arab world.
In separate interviews, Romney stuck to his talking points.
"I can't imagine saying something like the assassination of ambassadors is a bump in the road," he told ABC News.
To NBC News, he offered, "There are extraordinary events going on in the Middle East, and considering those events — either one of them or all of them collectively — as bumps in the road shows a person who has a very different perspective about world affairs than the perspective I have."
Obama's campaign fired back, accusing Romney of politicizing the attacks in the Middle East.
"He's purposely misinterpreting the president's words and making reckless statements about the death of four Americans in Libya, apparently for the sole purpose of his own political gain," Lis Smith, an Obama campaign spokeswoman, said in an email statement. "Using this incident to launch political attacks should be beneath someone seeking to be our nation's commander in chief."
The president was tag-teamed by the Republican ticket on foreign policy, as Ryan, at a campaign stop in Lima, Ohio, assailed Obama for the Middle East turmoil, saying, "Turn on the TV and it reminds you of 1979 Tehran" — an allusion to the seizure of the American Embassy by Islamic militants who held 52 American hostages for 444 days.
The line of attack served a dual purpose: It fit another Republican theme by drawing parallels between the Obama administration and the presidency of Jimmy Carter.