Continued from page 1

The killings in Libya and the lingering questions about why they occurred are a marked departure from Mr. Obama’s confident campaign narrative that under his leadership, Osama bin Laden is dead and al Qaeda is on the path to defeat.

After first blaming an anti-Islam film produced in the United States for sparking the violent protests, the administration eventually concluded they were the result of premeditated terrorism. But Mr. Obama has not said so himself, and last week once again said at the U.N. General Assembly that the film generated the violence.

With just five weeks to go till the election, polls are showing Mr. Romney behind in nine critical swing states, and the October debates provide Mr. Romney an opportunity to change the course of the election.

Over the weekend, his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, and several other Romney surrogates took Mr. Obama to task for the attack in Libya, with Mr. Ryan calling the administration’s response slow, confused and inconsistent.

“We’re seeing the ugly fruits of the Obama foreign policy unravel around the world on our TV screens,” Mr. Ryan said. “Syria, you’ve got 20,000 dead people. Iran is closer toward a nuclear weapon. The Middle East peace process is in shambles, and we have our flags being burned around the world. Russia is thwarting us at every stage in the process. This is a weak foreign policy with terrible results, which makes us less safe.”

Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.