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Winning Issue

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Tuesday's rematch of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is likely to be their first of two in which the incumbent's record as Commander-in-Chief is going to be a matter of direct debate. If last week's set-to between their running mates is any guide, there will be opportunities and perils for the challenger. It behooves Gov. Romney to maximize the former and minimize the latter if he wants decisively to defeat the President in these mass-audience settings, and in November.

Here's how he can do that:

One obvious way is to pick up on the success his partner, Rep. Paul Ryan, had in exploring the run-up to, the events of and the Obama administration's serial lies after the murderous attack last month on our consulate in Benghazi. Mr. Romney can rebut the contention that he is "politicizing" this incident by showing that it is a teachable moment about the whirlwind we are going to reap from the seeds sown in the Mideast and elsewhere by President Obama.

But it will not be enough to castigate the administration for failing to protect our diplomatic personnel and facilities in a very dangerous part of the world. The point is that, as a practical matter, attacks on such targets must be deterred, not simply defended against. And Mr. Obama not only is not deterring our enemies, he is legitimating, enriching and emboldening them.

A case in point is the Muslim Brotherhood - the font of modern jihadism and the wellspring of groups like al Qaeda, the Taliban, Gema'at Islamiyya and others who engage in violence or "terrorism" as a companion to the stealthy, pre-violent "civilization jihad" in which the Brotherhood specializes. Where the Brothers are in charge, terrorists are finding safe-havens and organizing for their holy war against non-Islamist Muslims and the West. The attacks in Libya, Egypt and elsewhere are but symptoms of the rising confidence of our Islamist foes that America will submit to, not resist, their gathering power.

By taking on President Obama squarely over his support for the Muslim Brotherhood, Gov. Romney can make clear that he is not simply quibbling about how many U.S. troops are left in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and for how long, or a case of Monday morning quarterbacking about the Libya debacle. Rather, they have a profound policy difference rooted in Mr. Romney's recognition that the threat we face emanates not just from al Qaeda, but from all those who, whatever their tactical or sectarian disagreements, fundamentally share that group's commitment to the triumph of the totalitarian, supremacist Islamic doctrine of shariah. The Republican candidate must communicate a determination to defeat, not accommodate, them.

The poster child for such accommodation could be Omar Abdul Rahman, the jihadist cleric serving a life-sentence for fomenting multiple terrorist plots in this country, including the first conspiracy to destroy the World Trade Center in 1993. The Muslim Brotherhood's Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi has demanded the release of the so-called "Blind Sheikh" and Mr. Romney could usefully announce that if he's president, Abdul Rahman will die in American prison, period - and call on Mr. Obama to say the same.

The American people need to have President Obama clarify his stance on another front, as well. In March 2012, he was overheard conveying a promise to Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin that he would have "more flexibility after my last election." Mr. Romney can helpfully establish whether, as seems likely, that would translate into: an even more aggressive effort to pursue U.S. nuclear disarmament (unilaterally, if necessary); concessions constraining missile defenses; and acquiescence to Kremlin efforts to assert Russia's authority worldwide, at America's expense. He can show that, while we have engaged in such restraint in the name of "resetting" relations, Putin is comprehensively modernizing the Russian nuclear arsenal, conducting exercises simulating its use against us and undermining U.S. interests around the globe.

Governor Romney must also show how President Obama has failed to warn of, let alone effectively counter, the rising power of Communist China. This is not simply a question of currency manipulation. The PRC is also investing in: a massive military build-up of highly threatening nuclear forces - including, for example, four new long-range missiles and 3,000 miles of tunnels known as the Underground Great Wall in which to hide them; anti-space capabilities; and advanced conventional weaponry (notably, two new stealth aircraft). At the same time, it is threatening war with our ally, Japan, and claiming sovereignty over virtually the entire South China Sea.

Mr. Obama's response is a so-called "pivot" to Asia. The Republican challenger can point out that this is seen by Beijing for what it is: the unresourced - and, therefore, meaningless - machinations of a paper tiger. No matter how many times Obama-Biden say it, America's military leaders are not in favor of the sorts of budget cuts that are validating such perceptions by eviscerating our defenses and especially our power-projection capabilities.

Governor Romney has already taken President Obama to task for declaring that he does not regard Venezuela's rabidly anti-American dictator as a threat. Now that Chavez has engineered his reelection, we are likely to see even more evidence of how wrong Team Obama is in discounting the danger posed by a regime that has: turned Venezuela into a despotically misruled and dangerous armed camp; forged alliances with Iran, China, Russia, Cuba, Hamas, Hezbollah and other foes of the United States and brought to power like-minded proxies throughout the region; and agreed to place in Venezuela Iranian missiles capable of reaching the United States.

In the course of the 2008 election, Barack Obama famously declared that he was going to "fundamentally transform the United States" by, among other things, redistributing wealth. He has, since gaining the presidency, pursued another, less-recognized transformational agenda: Call it redistributing American power. A recent poll sponsored by the Foreign Policy Initiative suggests the voters overwhelmingly reject such a practice. By focusing on the foregoing, winning issues in the remaining days of this campaign, Governor Romney can enlist - and deserve - their support.

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