(CNN) - Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama traded barbs Wednesday over Obama's national security assessment of Venezuela in an interview, with Romney calling the comments "stunning and shocking" and Obama's campaign saying Romney “was only playing into the hands” of that nation’s dictator.
Romney was joined by several prominent Republicans as well as the Republican National Committee, which called Obama "out of touch.” Obama demonstrates "an alarmingly naïve understanding of the challenges and opportunities we face in the Western Hemisphere," Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said in a statement.
– Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker
– Check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator and game out your own strategy for November.
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt responded early Wednesday evening, saying it is "disturbing that Mitt Romney is trying to score cheap political points by blustering and misrepresenting the President's record while failing to outline any coherent foreign policy strategy."
The president told a local Miami television station on Tuesday that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has had little impact on the U.S. of late but the South American country requires continued attention particularly when it comes to Iranian influence.
"We're always concerned about Iran engaging in destabilizing activity around the globe," Obama told Miami's WJAN. "But overall my sense is that what Mr. Chávez has done over the last several years has not had a serious national security impact on us.
"We have to be vigilant," he continued. "My main concern when it comes to Venezuela is having the Venezuelan people have a voice in their affairs, and that you end up ultimately having fair and free elections, which we don't always see."
Latino voters, who are particularly concerned about Chavez's rule of Venezuela, make up a voting bloc seen as crucial this year.
Venezuela has supplied the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with several shipments of diesel fuel at a time when the U.S. and other nations are imposing sanctions on the country as the government continues a deadly crackdown on the uprising against his regime.
In January, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad toured several Latin American countries and met with Chavez, who said his country and Iran would work together against the "imperial insanity" of the United States, which he called a "threat for the world."
Romney's statement was sharply critical of Obama - blasting him for a continued "pattern of weakness in his foreign policy," but offered no specifics about what he would do differently from Obama.
"As president, I will speak clearly and resolutely on the challenges we face so that both our allies and our adversaries will know where we stand," Romney said.
His criticism of Obama argued it was "disturbing to see him downplaying the threat posed to U.S. interests by a regime that openly wishes us ill."
"Hugo Chavez has provided safe haven to drug kingpins, encouraged regional terrorist organizations that threaten our allies like Colombia, has strengthened military ties with Iran and helped it evade sanctions, and has allowed a Hezbollah presence within his country's borders," Romney said. "And he is seeking to lead – together with the Castros – a destabilizing, anti-democratic, and anti-American 'Bolivarian Revolution' across Latin America."
His campaign also bolstered the critical paper statement from Romney with similarly harsh statements from Romney campaign surrogates, including Rep. Connie Mack of Florida and former Gov. John Sununu.
Obama's campaign spokesman responded with a statement which said Romney "is only playing into the hands of Chavez by acting like he's ten feet tall."
"It's baffling that Mitt Romney is so scared of a leader like Chavez whose power is fading, while Romney continues to remain silent about how to confront al-Qaeda or how to bring our troops home from Afghanistan," LaBolt said in a statement. "People like Hugo Chavez want attention – and that's exactly what Mitt Romney and his supporters gave him today."
LaBolt added that the U.S. "is much stronger today than before [Obama] took office" while "Chavez has become increasingly marginalized and his influence has waned."
Romney has criticized Obama on a range of foreign policy issues - including the handling of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, relations with China and Russia, and the administration's handling of the Arab Spring uprisings.
Typical GOP response – reactive, reactionary jingo-ism combined with mis- and dis-information. And of course Romney, for all his tough talk, offers no viable alternative. What does he think we should do? Invade? Bomb? Blockade? Cyber-attacks? Chavez postures and blusters a lot (kind of like Newt Gingrich with a tan), but doesn't really do anything particularly threatening. He and the Iranians talk a lot, but nothing ever happens. Most of the Chavez's seeming importance derives from the attention that the U.S. gives him. You'll notice, the more the U.S. ignores him, the more frenetic he gets. Obama is right – vigilant indifference.
This is the same draft dodging idiot mitt robme who was vacationing in FRANCE spreading his mormon beliefs while true American patriots were CLEARLY and RESOLUTELY fighting & dying in VIETNAM!!!
I would like to see John King's commentary on all this. Where is he? You folks are forcing me to go to MSNBC.
Obama is just courting the Venezuelan votes in Miami, this is just a campaign move.
Hay romney the clown ,your not president and never will be ,but out of our foreign policy !!!what are your plans ,invading south America ,Iran ,China,Russian ,Cuba ,must be your jobs plan .send your sons first .
I remember when the republicans use to praise W. for "keeping America safe", saying that after 911, there were no more terrorist attacks. But now, for some reason, they do not give Obama any credit for "keeping America safe". We haven’t had any attacks, killed Bin Laden & Gaddafi, Mubarak is out of government and facing trial, drone strikes all over, What else do you guys want??
Oh, yay, let's go attack Venezuela too, right, Republicans? Because every saber-rattling nation in the world needs to be attacked by America, because we can so totally afford it. Oh, but we can't afford for our own people to be healthy.
obama and foreign policy? all they have to say positive is that obama is good at killing people. iran still working on a nuke? yes. arab spring encouraged resulting in syria still on fire with thousands dying and radical muslims in charge of egypt. yeah, the world loves a weak apologetic america while america lead from behind.
Nice tact away from the economy CNN.., no need for your viewers to be informed.
I am pleased to inform you that the CNN article is about what Romney is saying on the campaign trail. Romney isn't talking about the economy. His basic message is unchanged. "Elect me. I will do a better job."
Romoney internationally is a threat to North America – if he becomes preseident we will most certainly be attacked by enemies of this continent – in contrast billions of people around the world know that Obama is considered a person of the people and would not attack our continent
as such Canada's 38 billion people vote with the Democract to KICK Romoney off the continent – he can go live were he out sourced jobs or hides his money
Mittens has been wrong on everything so far. I, and I'm sure the Kochs and the turdblossom too, look forward to him being correct once.
For Fair-is-Fair: to state that Obama 'nationalized' the auto industry is at best disingenuous but most probably a lie. The program, begun under George W. Bush, not Obama, acted as a lender of last resort to put GM and Chrysler through bankruptcy when no other lender could/would. If the government, starting with George W. Bush, hadn't intervened both companies would have collapsed, with an enormous ripple effect. The government received stock in the two companies, which has been selling. The government doesn't run the companies, which still have a considerable private ownership and independent private management. This is not nationalization by any stretch, since the government didn't seize control or seize assets. And if you notice, both GM and Chrysler are doing quite well, which is of course diametrically opposite of Romney's prediction at the time. In contrast, Chavez basically seized all the assets of the foreign operators in question (i.e., expropriated them) and gave them over to PdVSa -the Venezuelan state oil company. The ventures then ceased to exist.
Alexithymic Mitt babbling on Foreign Policy, AGAIN.
Chavez is a buddy of Obumbles. why would he diss him?
What is really funny here is that Marco Rubio is calling anyone naive, not to mention the President of the United States who happens to be privy to a little bit more information on foreign affairs than little Marco gets. What a joke!!! He merely highlights his own stupidity on foreign affairs. I'd like to hear either Romney or Rubio in a debate trying to regale us all with their depth of knowledge and experience on foreign policy. Obama and Biden would wipe the floor up with both of them.
Do not understand how a NEW Young Politician like Rubio is so talented .According to newspapers and comments he has spent most of his young life spending Questionable GOP funds,in the neighborhood of 90,000 dollars on his house cars massages and other personal Goodies and is millions in debt. In addition he has been a consitant liar about his supposed Exhile family and many other family situations which are questionable about their moving to and living in a free country.Sounds like he would be a Typical GOP candidate for higher office. His balloon will bust as the national press starts to check out his past and present endeavors.