Below the border, Romney can poke at Obama's troubled relationship with Mexico's president and force him to defend his history with Hugo Chavez-run Venezuela.
"We can't really fault him much on his Antarctic policy," Carafano said.
The goal is to discard Obama's Bin Laden trump card and focus on other issues, so that in a rare foreign policy debate in an election that's destined to be focused on the economy, Romney is at least formidable rather than disqualified from the start.
So far, Romney has pleased some Jewish voters with his unequivocal rhetoric supporting Israel — while it's not unlike Obama's own phrasing, he doesn't have a history of irking Bibi Netanyahu that might dog him.
"I'm not sure Romney's promising that he can bring peace to the Middle East, but he is saying Israel's not going to have to worry so much about having its arm broken," said the person familiar with the ex-governor's campaign.
Nearly all foreign policy analysts concede that their issue of expertise is likely to rank low on the list of voters' priorities this year. An election season fixated on the economy has already veered toward abortion, gay marriage, religion and health care — and the primary isn't over yet. Four years ago, Hillary Clinton jabbed at Obama's empty foreign policy bona fides with a famous ad in which a "3 a.m. phone call" requires the president to respond to a crisis. Voters in the GOP primary now appear to be more concerned with birth control than international crises.
Still, candidates owe it to the country to talk about foreign policy, Carafano said — because if they disguise their views during the campaign, "the world doesn't know who you are" come January.