Mitt Romney plans to challenge President Barack Obama broadly on foreign policy this year, and will likely deliver a major address on the topic in April or May. If he is to convince voters that he would be better than Obama on the world stage, he has a steep hill to climb.
Americans trust Obama over Romney on international affairs by a 53 to 36 percent margin, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released this week. Foreign policy is one of Obama's strongest advantages among 18 issues and attributes tested in the poll.
Not to say that Romney doesn't have his strengths -- they're just far from the foreign policy arena. Handling the federal budget deficit stood out as Romney's greatest strength in the poll: he led Obama by 51 to 38 percent on trust to handle the issue. He also fared well on handling the economy overall and energy policy.
Interestingly, however, Romney's weakness on foreign policy doesn't appear to result from Obama's strengths. Americans give Obama middling ratings on international affairs overall: 47 percent approve while 44 percent disapprove. Obama's marks on terrorism are better, but far from the stratospheric levels he received after Osama bin Laden's killing.
That might be good news in Romney's camp, but even among Republicans, Romney has struggled to win trust over his competitors. Twice as many Republicans and GOP-leaning independents in a February CNN/ORC poll trusted Newt Gingrich to handle foreign policy as trusted Romney, even as Gingrich's overall support was plummeting nationally.