- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Govs. Chris Christie and Scott Walker managed to carve out space in their respective State of the State addresses this week to delve into international affairs, signaling the importance global politics is expected to play in the 2016 GOP nomination race.

After back-to-back elections that turned on domestic issues, President Obama’s struggles with the growing Islamic military threat in the Middle East, an aggressive Russia to the east and changing conditions in Latin America have increased the chances that international issues take center stage in the next battle for the White House.

Global affairs are also serving as a springboard for Mitt Romney’s possible third bid, with his closest allies saying his interest is driven in large part by fears the Obama administration has weakened the nation, and a conviction he could have done better.

Mr. Walker, Wisconsin’s governor, strayed from domestic issues in his annual address to the legislature to tackle the recent attack on a satirical magazine in France, saying Democrats and Republicans must “denounce those who wish to threaten freedom anywhere in the world.”

“We need to proclaim that an attack against freedom-loving people anywhere is an attack against us all,” Mr. Walker said.

Meanwhile Mr. Christie, in his address to New Jersey’s assembly, said that the country’s reputation has taken a hit because of a “pattern of indecision and inconsistency” at the national level.

But even as they train their fire on Mr. Obama, Republicans are battling among themselves to define what the GOP’s position should be, pitting the likes of libertarian-leaning Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul against defense-minded South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham — two other potential candidates for the White House.

Speaking Wednesday on the “Hugh Hewitt Show,” Mr. Graham said he is considering a run because he thinks he is “uniquely qualified” to deal with the threat of radical Islam.

“When I hear some libertarians on my side of the aisle associated with the Republican Party say that it is our interventionist policy that has brought people down on us, they don’t know what they’re talking about,” Mr. Graham said.

For his part, Mr. Paul has said he is a realist on foreign policy and before Christmas tried to force a vote on a bill declaring war against Islamic militants, arguing Congress should not yield its constitutional authority to the executive branch.

“The power to declare war was absolutely and without question given to the legislature,” Mr. Paul said this week at the Conservative Policy Summit, hosted by Heritage Action for America. “We’ve been at war now for five months and no vote in Congress.”

Whatever their disagreements, however, Republicans on all sides say Mr. Obama’s policies have failed to improve U.S. security or standing in the world.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another 2016 presidential contender, panned Mr. Obama’s decision to skip a march in Paris this weekend to show solidarity against radical Islam, after an attack on a French satirical magazine last week.

“How sad was it in the streets of Paris as 40 world leaders walked down the street, absent was the United States of America,” Mr. Cruz said. “Where was the president?”

“This administration has a difficult time differentiating good guys from bad guys,” Mr. Cruz said. “One of the striking things as you travel the world is our friends and allies quite consistently will pull you aside and in hushed tones they will say, ‘Where is America? What has happened?’”

Polling in the 2012 primary showed the GOP electorate about evenly split between those who embraced a more interventionist view and those who wanted the U.S. to take a less adventurous posture overseas.

Politicos in early primary states said they expect the discussion to play out there over the next year.

“I think it will take center sage,” said New Hampshire state Sen. Sharon Carson, who supported Mr. Romney in 2012, but is not ready to commit to any of the candidates lining up to run in 2016. “I think it will be a crucial issue, just because of all the events that have happened.”

“I think many people have realized that we need to play a major role in the world and we need to define what that role is gong to be,” she added.

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