Two weeks out, the race appears to be tied, with both candidates taking 47 percent among likely voters in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Sunday that reflected a boost of support for Romney following his lauded performance in the first debate in early October.
Romney's top supporters launched sweeping condemnations of Obama's handling of foreign policy, assailing him over a deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and arguing that under the president's negligent watch, Iran has crept closer to obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Republican Sen. Rob Portman, of Ohio, who played Obama in Romney's debate preparations, said a new report claiming the U.S. and Iran had agreed to direct negotiations seemed like "another example of a national security leak from the White House."
"They've done a lot of that," Portman said, alluding to accusations over the summer that Obama's administration was leaking information to bolster his political prospects ahead of the election.
The White House said Saturday that while it is prepared for direct talks with Iran, there's no current agreement to meet. On Sunday, Obama's backers credited him for isolating Iran within the global community and adopting effective sanctions that have crippled the Persian Gulf nation.
"For two years, the president traveled the world putting together a withering international coalition. And now the sanctions that they agreed on are bringing the Iranian economy to its knees," said David Axelrod, a senior Obama adviser. "They're feeling the heat. And that's what the sanctions were meant to do."
Romney, taking a break from debate prep Sunday in Delray Beach, Fla., declined to answer a reporter's question about whether he would be open to one-on-one talks with Iran.
Still, Obama's allies were wedged into a defensive posture as Republicans undertook an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to deflating Obama's foreign policy record. Graham said the Libya attack reflected "one of the most major breakdowns of national security in a very long time." Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in a clear nod to Cuban-American voters in his battleground state, even suggested Obama's loosening of travel restrictions to Cuba had provided a source of cash for the Castro regime and undermined political freedoms.
Democrats were ready with indictments of their own. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the House GOP's release Friday of 166 pages of Libya-related documents had put lives in danger.
"People around the world will now know that you're at risk if you cooperate with the United States," said Emanuel, Obama's former chief of staff.