More than four years ago, Barack Obama's opening gambit to Democratic primary voters revolved around his early opposition to the war in Iraq. Playing off that position, he began his successful appeal to his party as a bold and different kind of leader.
Now part of President Obama's closing pitch for a second term -- as a debate on foreign policy looms tonight in Florida -- focuses on the fulfillment of the Iraq war pledge and a renewed commitment to getting the U.S. out of Afghanistan in 2014.
A new television ad from the Obama campaign contrasts those positions with challenger Mitt Romney's more cautionary message about terminating the U.S. conflicts in the Muslim world. "President Obama ended the Iraq war," says the ad. "Mitt Romney would have left 30,000 troops there and called bringing them home 'tragic.'"
"Obama's brought 30,000 soldiers back from Afghanistan and has a responsible plan to end the war. Romney calls it Obama's biggest mistake," the ad continues. It concludes: "It's time to stop fighting over there and to start rebuilding here."
The imagery in the ad is of a U.S. serviceman with a prosthetic leg and of Obama enthusiastically greeting troops. Emphasizing the shift to domestic concerns, the ad ends with men in hard hats at a construction site.
The Associated Press-GfK Poll has shown support for the war in Afghanistan steadily declining -- from 46% in 2010, to 37% in 2011, to just 27% in May 2012. Many of those surveyed have said the U.S.' continued presence there does more harm than good.
Romney’s complaints about Obama's Iraq policy have been over the pace of withdrawing troops. On Afghanistan, Romney's complaint has been on Obama setting a "specific date" for withdrawing U.S. troops. Romney suggested that could give too much notice to negative forces in the troubled country. Obama argued that only a deadline would motivate the Afghan government to take charge of its own affairs.
Although Romney has insisted his policy would be preferable to Obama's in Afghanistan, many foreign policy experts said he didn't sound that different than the president when he addressed the war last month in a foreign policy speech to the National Guard Assn.
"Our goal should be to complete a successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014, Romney said. "We should evaluate conditions on the ground and solicit the best advice of our military commanders."