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Some struggled to see clear light between the Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama. “What was surprising to me,” said P.J. Crowley, who served in the Obama administration State Department until last year, “was that on most of the critical issues, the bottom lines were basically the same.”

“There were several instances where Romney gave a detailed explanation of Obama’s foreign policy,” said Mr. Crowley, now a fellow at George Washington University. “They agreed that this was not the time for a U.S. military intervention in Syria; they agreed on the timeline of departure for U.S. forces from Afghanistan; [and] they agreed on the bottom line regarding Iran.”

Such congruence could likely be credited to a strategy employed by Mr. Romney, said Clifford D. May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative policy shop in Washington.

“He didn’t diverge terribly far from Obama on a lot of the issues, and that may have been useful from the point of view of political calculation,” said Mr. May. “It would have been difficult for him to take a very different view from Obama and not have the president make him look like an extremist.”

“I think there are a lot of people on the right who would have been geared up to hear a very clear message from Romney, that he was not going to let America’s enemies prevail, that he was going to be more like Roosevelt and Churchill, but now I don’t think any of them are going to say, ‘Gee, I’m so disappointed that I’m not going to vote for him.’”