BOULDER, Colo. — Campaigning in the adoring embrace of yet another college audience, President Obama blasted Republican nominee Mitt Romney on Sunday for ignoring the war in Afghanistan at the GOP convention, and suggested that his rival will prolong the war if elected president.
“This November you get to decide the future of the Afghanistan war,” Mr. Obama told about 13,000 mostly young supporters at an outdoor rally at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “Gov. Romney had nothing to say about Afghanistan last week. We are bringing our troops home from Afghanistan. I set a timetable and we will have them all out by 2014. Gov. Romney doesn’t have a timetable.”
Earlier in the weekend, speaking to a college audience in Iowa, Mr. Obama said Mr. Romney hasn’t explained “if he’s going to end” the war.
The president’s remarks came as Vice President Joseph R. Biden, campaigning Sunday in Pennsylvania, said Mr. Romney is “ready to go to war in Syria and Iran.”
The Romney campaign attempted to brush off Mr. Obama’s attack and turn the country’s focus instead to the weak economy, asking voters if they are better off than they were four years ago. Even a prominent Obama surrogate, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, had to admit Sunday the answer is “no.”
Mr. Obama is touring battleground states on his way to accepting the nomination Thursday at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. He’s carrying an anti-war message to his campaign rallies, many of which are set on college campuses where youthful voters helped to propel the president to victory four years ago.
Aware of the disillusionment this year among voters younger than 30 who can’t find jobs, the president is portraying Mr. Romney to these young audiences as a risky choice militarily. Settings such as left-leaning Boulder are especially receptive; someone outside the rally Sunday held a sign that proclaimed “No attack on Iran!”
“He hasn’t offered a plan for the 33,000 troops who will have come home from the war by the end of this month,” Mr. Obama said of his rival. “He said ending the war in Iraq was tragic. I think it was the right thing to do, and I said I would do it, and we did it. We’ve got more troops we’ve got to bring home.”
That line from the president’s stump speech drew one of the loudest roars of approval of the weekend.
Romney campaign spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom countered Sunday that, although Mr. Romney didn’t mention Afghanistan in his convention speech last week, the Republican nominee “talked about Afghanistan” a day earlier at a gathering of the American Legion in Indianapolis.
Obama campaign officials said in a statement: “It’s no surprise Romney has declined to discuss the issue — Romney has attacked the President’s plan for bringing our troops home and suggested that he is open to leaving them in Afghanistan indefinitely, but has refused to lay out his own plan for our brave men and women who are there. Americans deserve more in a Commander-in-Chief.”
Weekly Standard editor William Kristol also criticized Mr. Romney for failing to mention the troops in his speech, writing that it gives Mr. Obama an opportunity to exploit at the Democratic convention.
The president’s pre-convention tour is also focused on portraying the Republican ticket as short on ideas to improve the economy and dishonest with voters about their plans.
“There was a lot of talk about hard truths and bold choices,” Mr. Obama said. “But the interesting thing was, nobody ever bothered to tell us what they were. It’s not just because they know you won’t like it. They are exhausted of ideas.”