LOS ANGELES — Rumbling into its final four weeks, the presidential campaign is playing out on both coasts and multiple fronts, with Republican Mitt Romney seeking stature on foreign affairs and President Barack Obama raising political cash by the millions.
Negative ads, charges of dishonesty and dwindling time are all setting the tone.
Romney delivered a detailed foreign policy speech that answered criticism that he has not been specific enough in describing how he would lead the country and drew sharp distinctions with Obama's approach. "Hope is not a strategy," Romney said in the address at Virginia Military Institute. He argued Obama's leadership has been especially lacking in the Middle East as chaos continues to grow.
"It's clear that the risk of conflict in the region is higher now than when the president took office," Romney argued.
Joining celebrities for fundraising in Los Angeles on Sunday, Obama for the first time needled himself over a poor debate performance. But he declared he had the right focus and "I intend to win."
The campaigns also were eyeing the next debate, the sole faceoff between Vice President Joe Biden and the GOP running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, which will grab even more attention as the Thursday night event nears. Ryan's challenge is to overcome his lack foreign policy expertise or national debate experience against Biden, who has extensive experience on both fronts.
Ryan said voters are paying closer attention as Election Day approaches and accused the Democratic ticket of distorting the GOP ticket's record.
"Believe you me, I understand this man is extremely experienced, he's a gifted speaker, he's a proven debater," the Republican vice presidential nominee said on The Frank Beckman Show on Detroit radio station WJR. "So we definitely have our work cut out for us. But the problem the vice president has that he just can't get around is he has to try and defend Barack Obama's record and it's not a very good record to defend."
The election hangs as ever on persuadable voters in fewer than 10 states, with Iowa, Ohio, Virginia and Florida all set for candidate visits this week.