GOP hopefuls putting economy aside to debate foreign policy

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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Eight Republican candidates seeking the White House will gather on stage tonight to debate an issue that has been largely ignored this season: national security.

And if a focus group of Republicans viewed by The Daily Caller on Monday night is in tune with the electorate, voters will be looking for a candidate whose instincts they can trust when it comes to foreign policy, even if that candidate does not have extensive experience in national security.

Much has been made recently of the lack of international relations experience from candidate Herman Cain, the former businessman who has never held office. He has stumbled trying to explain his views on Libya and defending missteps by saying it’s not important for a candidate to be an expert in all areas of the world.

“As president, I would not be required to make decisions on the spur of the moment based on a question from a reporter,” Cain said in an email to supporters on Tuesday. “I would make them the way I made them as a CEO — based on careful consideration of all the facts and the best advice of the best people.”

Yet Republicans still admit that while they find foreign policy issues serious, the most pressing concern among Americans is the dismal economy.

“The economy has overshadowed foreign policy,” said a Virginia woman in the national security focus group made up of seven Republicans and sponsored by the Israel Project.

Most debates so far this season have centered upon the economy. Earlier this month, CBS held the first debate devoted to foreign policy.

The GOP focus group, convened in an office building in Alexandria, Va., made it clear they want Republican presidential candidates to show how they will differ from President Obama on foreign policy.

One man, speaking about Obama, said, “It seems to me like the U.S. cares to much what the rest of the world” thinks.

Another voter said the GOP wants a candidate with a different “tone” from the Democratic president. That man said Republicans want someone who will “stand up for the country.”

All seven Republicans in the focus group raised their hands when asked if they think Obama is bringing the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq too quickly.

Every voter but one said the United States should support Israel. Republicans also want to hear the candidates’ plans for stopping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Asked who they support today, the participants were almost evenly split between supporting former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Several expressed distaste for Texas Rep. Ron Paul, saying he’s the only candidate they would not support.

Also notable was that the candidate with the most foreign policy experience, former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, was not mentioned as anyone’s favorite during the focus group.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer will moderate Tuesday’s debate, also sponsored by The Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, from the DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.


Be sure to join The Daily Caller tonight as we live-tweet the debate beginning at 8 p.m. EST.

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