Washington (CNN) – The absence of any remarks on the war in Afghanistan during Mitt Romney's convention speech - cited as a major omission by Democrats - is countered by his speech to the American Legion the day before, Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said Sunday.
"Gov. Romney thought it was a privilege to be speaking to people who had served so nobly and in that speech, he talked about Afghanistan," Fehrnstrom told CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley on "State of the Union."
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Romney's speech Wednesday in Indianapolis was before a much smaller crowd, both in person and on television, than his convention address. Romney's speech in Tampa, Florida, formally accepting the Republican presidential nomination, was viewed by an estimated 30 million Americans, according to Nielsen.
In his speech to the American Legion, Romney made brief mention of Afghanistan, including citing uniformed Americans serving there. The core of his speech, however, was impassioned criticism of President Barack Obama's foreign policy, which Romney said was apologetic and weak.
"President Obama has allowed our leadership to diminish," Romney said Wednesday. "In dealings with other nations, he has given trust where it is not earned, insult where it is not deserved, and apology where it is not due."
Democrats, including Obama, have hammered Romney for not mentioning the war in Afghanistan during his convention remarks, saying it was both insensitive and unprecedented for a presidential nominee not to acknowledge troops serving overseas.
"Gov. Romney had nothing to say about Afghanistan last week," Obama said at a campaign rally in Iowa on Saturday. "Didn't mention it. Didn't offer a plan in terms of how he might end the war or, if he's not going to end it, he's got to let people know."
Others, including the conservative writer Bill Kristol, questioned why someone running to become commander in chief would fail to mention members of America's military.
"What about the civic propriety of a presidential nominee failing to even mention, in his acceptance speech, a war we're fighting and our young men and women who are fighting it?" Kristol asked in a post on the Weekly Standard's website.
Fehrnstrom said Romney's intention in his convention remarks was to "introduce himself to millions of voters who were seeing him for the first time."
"We thought that speech was a home run," Fehrnstrom added.
While Romney has said he supports a deadline, set by Obama, to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by September 2014, he stipulates on his website that any action taken as president would be based not on electoral politics but on the "conditions on the ground as assessed by our military commanders."
Unlike previous elections, foreign policy and national security are not considered top issues for voters, who overwhelmingly rate the economy as their top issue. While Romney makes mention of foreign policy briefly at campaign stops, including blasting the president for what he calls defense cuts, his stump speech and overall message are almost entirely based on improving America's economy.
In polls, voters consistently say Obama, if re-elected, would handle America's relationships with other countries better than Romney would. In the latest CNN/ORC International survey released earlier this week, Obama had a 51%-44% advantage over Romney on foreign policy.
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