Ryan primes Colorado audiences for foreign policy debate

As Mitt Romney has gone up in the polls, the attacks have gotten sharper and more personal.
CBS News

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. Before Mitt Romney takes the stage in Monday's foreign policy debate against President Obama, his running mate Paul Ryan is seeking to bolster the Republican nominee by burnishing his foreign policy credentials and suggesting that Obama is projecting weakness.

"The president himself acknowledged on TV a few weeks ago that he can't change Washington from the inside," Ryan said, in reference to an interview the president gave to Univision in September. It's a line that he frequently trots out on the campaign trail, but he added a new spin while speaking on Sunday in Colorado Springs, which has a major military presence. "If he can't honor the men and women who put the uniform on by giving us a strong military, then I say we change presidents."

The third of the debates is expected to be the most challenging for Romney because of the focus on foreign policy, an area in which Obama has held a strong edge in polling. Ryan sought to prime the audience by saying that the president has embraced the $550 billion in defense spending cuts that are slated be implemented in January 2013 if Congress does reach agreement on other spending cuts to offset the increase in the debt ceiling from last summer.

Ryan voted for the bill to raise the debt ceiling that included the cuts, but has offered legislation to defer them, though his measure received no Democratic support when it passed the House in late July.

He also recalled the instance during which Obama was caught on a hot mike telling then-outgoing Russian president Dmitry Medvedev that he would have "more flexibility" after the November elections.

"When you see your president whispering to the president of Russia, when he thinks no one is listening, the he'll have more flexibility on missile defense, it begs the question: how much more does he want to give away?" Ryan asked.

He said he and Romney would pursue a very different style of foreign policy. "We are safe, we keep prosperity when America's military is strong and when our president speaks with resolve and clarity. That's the kind of president Mitt Romney will be," he said.

If Romney can hold his own in the debate Monday evening, it could help put him over the edge in states like Colorado, where a CBS News/New York Times/Quinnipiac poll taken in early October showed him leading the president by just one point.

Ryan is campaigning across the state on Monday with events in Pueblo, Durango, and Grand Junction.

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    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.