COLUMBUS, Ohio – Responding to his rival’s attack on his foreign policy record, President Obama defended the decision to remove all combat forces from Iraq as “the right thing to do” and challenged Mitt Romney with favoring a return to failed policies abroad.
Speaking at an afternoon rally on the campus of Ohio State University, Obama said that Romney in a speech this week “doubled down” on his past statement that ending the war was “tragic.”
“After nine years of war, more than $1 trillion in spending, extraordinary sacrifices by our men and women in uniform and their families, he said we should still have troops on the ground in Iraq. Ohio, you can’t turn a page on the failed policies of the past if you’re promising to repeat them,” Obama said. “We cannot afford to go back to a foreign policy that gets us into wars with no plan to end them. We’re moving forward, not going back.”
Ending the war in Iraq was one of the hallmarks of Obama’s 2008 campaign for president, and it was the front on which he chose to engage Romney, albeit belatedly, after the GOP nominee’s speech in Virginia on Monday.
Vice President Joe Biden has been a lead campaign voice challenging Romney on foreign policy. But he’s camped out near his home in Delaware for intensive preparation for Thursday’s vice presidential debate.
Obama returned to campaign in Ohio after a two-day West Coast jaunt that was primarily about fundraising. It was his 15th campaign event in Ohio this year and came hours before the state’s registration deadline.
Just as the president was arriving in Ohio, a new poll showed his lead in the state had narrowed to just 4 percentage points. But his campaign says it has the advantage here.
“Ohio is Obama Country. We absolutely feel that,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
The president’s first order of business at Ohio State was asking students a question: “Are you registered to vote?” The event was timed to coincide with the deadline for voter registration, and Obama told a crowd of 15,000 that buses would be ready to take them from the event to an early-voting location. As an added incentive will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, who entertained the crowd before Obama’s arrival, was waiting at the buses.
“Don’t wait. Do not delay. Go vote today,” Obama urged. “We’ve got some work to do. We’ve got an election to win. Everything that we fought for in 2008 is on the line in 2012.”