ANALYSIS: When asked in an interview yesterday with ABC's George Stephanopoulos what he thought of President Obama's accusation that he has a "tendency to shoot first, aim later," Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney wouldn't take the bait.
"Well, this is politics," Romney told Stephanopoulos. "I'm not going to worry about the campaign."
But several of Romney's top foreign policy aides apparently didn't get the memo. Instead of backing away from the "politics" of this week's foreign policy crisis, they're doubling -- even tripling -- down.
A top foreign policy aide to the former Massachusetts governor went so far as to suggest in an interview with the Washington Post that the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens would never have happened if Romney were president.
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"There's a pretty compelling story that if you had a President Romney, you'd be in a different situation," Romney adviser Richard Williamson told Post's Phil Rucker. "For the first time since Jimmy Carter, we've had an American ambassador assassinated."
Williamson went on to call the Obama administration's conduct of foreign policy, "amateur hour." Speaking to Stephanopoulos, Romney did stand by his initial reaction to the statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo -- before the attacks there and in Libya took place.
"I think the statement was an inappropriate statement," Romney said. "I think it was not directly applicable and appropriate for the setting. I think it should have been taken down. And apparently the White House felt the same way."
The question for Romney and his aides now is whether they move away from foreign policy and back to the economy -- and how quickly they do so. But with seething tensions in the Middle East, unforeseen events may dictate what happens on the campaign trail.
Only problem is, with a series of recent polls in key battleground states showing Obama with a widening lead over his Republican challenger, it not at all clear this is the issue set that's going to help Romney close the gap between now and November.