WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney lays out a new strategy for the Middle East in an op-ed piece in Monday’s Wall Street Journal.

In the piece entitled “A New Course for the Middle East,” Romney calls for restoring credibility with Iran and fixing diplomatic relations with Israel.

“This Middle East policy will be undermined unless we restore the three sinews of our influence: our economic strength, our military strength and the strength of our values,” Romney stated. “That will require a very different set of policies from those President Obama is pursuing.”

Romney continued to criticize Obama for saying the deadly attacks in Libya and the Mideast were just “bumps in the road.”

“[A]mid this upheaval, our country seems to be at the mercy of events rather than shaping them,” he added. “We’re not moving them in a direction that protects our people or our allies.”

In some of his harshest rhetoric toward the president, the former Massachusetts governor said Obama “has allowed our leadership to atrophy.”

“Our economy is stuck in a ‘recovery’ that barely deserves the name,” Romney wrote. “Our national debt has risen to record levels. Our military, tested by a decade of war, is facing devastating cuts thanks to the budgetary games played by the White House. Finally, our values have been misapplied—and misunderstood—by a president who thinks that weakness will win favor with our adversaries.”

Romney plans to deliver a major foreign policy speech in the coming weeks.

Both candidates were spending the days leading up to Wednesday’s first presidential debate in battleground states, with Romney in Colorado and Obama in Nevada. Each had just one official event planned during his stay, but they hoped their mere presence in the states would drive local media coverage.

Obama left the lakeside resort where he is prepping for the debate briefly Sunday evening for a rally at a Las Vegas high school. The 11,000-person event was focused in part on rallying Hispanics, a key source of support for the president in Nevada, and featured a performance by the popular Mexican rock band Mana.

Keeping with his campaign’s efforts to lower expectations, Obama told the crowd that while he was “just OK” at debating, his opponent was “a good debater.”

Romney’s team has been playing the expectations game as well, though his allies were sometimes pushing the stakes in opposite directions.

GOP running mate Paul Ryan on Sunday shot down the notion that Romney needed to have a breakthrough performance Wednesday night, saying he didn’t think one event would make or break the campaign.

But New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie, a Romney supporter, said that after the first debate: “This whole race is going to be turned upside down.”

Romney’s team has made no secret of the fact that the former Massachusetts governor has been practicing for the debates intensely for several weeks. Ohio’s Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who is playing Obama in practice sessions, travels frequently with Romney and the two sometimes speak to the press together.

Obama aides, on the other hand, have kept quiet about how and when the president is practicing. Some top members of his debate team, including senior advisers David Axelrod and David Plouffe, traveled with Obama to Nevada on Air Force One.

But Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who is standing in for Romney, made his way to the resort in Henderson on his own.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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