POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Sep 12, 2012
WASHINGTON » Looking to win voters even as they swore off negative attacks, President Barack Obama touted his administration's military accomplishments on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks while rival Mitt Romney warned against budget cuts that he said would be devastating to the armed forces.
Obama pointed to gains in the war on terror during his time as commander in chief to make the case that Americans are better protected.
"Al-Qaida's leadership has been devastated, and Osama bin Laden will never threaten us again. Our country is safer and our people are resilient," the president said at a Pentagon memorial service.
Romney, in a speech to a National Guard convention in Reno, Nev., won applause for thanking the Navy SEALs who killed bin Laden. Romney, who didn't mention Obama, added, "I wish I could say the world is less dangerous now."
The day offered Romney a chance to address criticism that he didn't include a salute to the troops or reference the war in Afghanistan in his GOP convention speech last week.
"With less than two months to go before election day, I would normally speak to a gathering like this about the differences between my and my opponent's plans for our military and for our national security," Romney told thousands packed convention hall. "There is a time and a place for that, but this day is not it."
But Romney still delivered a political speech — criticizing defense cuts scheduled to take place early next year and suggesting an end to the war in Afghanistan lacks a clear mission, even though his strategy is similar to Obama's.
Obama's goal is to end all U.S. combat there by the end of 2014, while Romney says he wants to hand over security responsibility to the Afghans at a pace that does not risk the country's collapse and al-Qaida's return, without specifics about troop numbers.
Polls show Obama leading Romney on terrorism and national security issues, but both are a low priority for voters in an election dominated by the economy. A CBS News/poll conducted in July found 37 percent of voters called terrorism and security extremely important to their vote, while 54 percent said the economy and jobs were that important.