Mitt Romney, fresh off what by most accounts was his victory Wednesday night in the first debate with President Obama, said in a Fox News interview that the deadly consulate attack in Libya was a "tragic failure" of security and that the Obama admiration's explanations have been "misleading."
The comments on Libya, made in an interview Thursday night with Fox News' Sean Hannity, served to underscore Romney's foreign policy attack on Obama, after a first debate that focused solely on domestic policy.
Obama claimed Thursday on the campaign trail that the Romney of the debate had tried to "dance around his positions" from the trail. Romney countered, "It's the same message I've been saying across America."
"Obviously the president wasn't happy with the response to our debate last night," he said.
As for Libya, Republicans have been vocal in questioning the Obama administration's response to the attack last month that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Sources have described the Sept. 11 attack as a coordinated assault by extremists that appear to have ties to Al Qaeda, but an investigation still is under way.
"Let me note my condolences and sympathy for the families of those who lost their lives," Romney told Fox News in a joint interview with his running mate, Paul Ryan. "I believe obviously what happened there was a tragic failure. There had been warnings of a possible attack, there were requests ... to have additional security forces. They were turned down."
Romney also accused the Obama administration of giving "misleading information" about the attack.
The administration initially suggested it was an outbreak of "spontaneous" violence tied to protests over an anti-Islam film produced in the U.S. But Obama's advisers gradually backed away from that explanation, increasingly describing the attack as an act of terrorism.
"This was a terrorist attack. Lives were lost," Romney said. "We expect candor and transparency from the president and from the administration, and we didn't get it."
Romney is scheduled to deliver a foreign policy speech next week, and international issues will be the topic of the final presidential debate, Oct. 22 in Florida.
But the race still is expected to hinge largely on jobs, the national debt and the other economic issues like the ones addressed in Wednesday night's debate, and domestic issues will be on the agenda again at the second debate, Oct. 16 in New York.
"Right now what America needs more than anything else is more jobs," Romney said in the Fox News interview.
He argued the rich have been doing fine under Obama but the middle class is hurting. And he echoed a point he made at Wednesday's debate in saying that raising taxes, including on top earners, was not the way to grow the economy.
"If you raise taxes, then people have less money of their own, particularly businesses," Romney said. "They have less money to spend and to hire people with. The best way to get a balanced budget at the federal government level is to have this economy grow so that more people are working. If more people are working, more people paying taxes. ...
"The most powerful way to get it to a balanced budget is to grow the economy."