WASHINGTON // Buoyed by polls showing he is catching up with Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, tried this week to build on the momentum by promising a more aggressive US foreign policy should he be elected.
But he offered few clues as to how, beyond a more bullish tone, a Romney administration would restore the global American leadership for which, he said, the world was "longing".
Mr Romney's address to cadets at the Virginia Military Institute on Monday was instead mostly a broad critique of US foreign policy under Mr Obama, specifically in the Middle East. The US, he said, had been "leading from behind".
The speech suggested that Mr Romney will now seek to take on Mr Obama on at least two fronts in the presidential campaign: the American economy and foreign policy, previously considered Mr Obama's strong suit.
What it did not suggest was much by the way of clear policy differences. Mr Romney said he would arm rebels in Syria, but only those who shared America's values. He didn't identify those rebels.
He said he would restore America's relations with Israel, though beyond perhaps better personal relations with Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, it is not clear how those relations have suffered under Mr Obama. Israel has in the past four years enjoyed better-than-ever defence cooperation and military support, while the US has shielded the country from attempts by the Palestinians to take their quest for statehood and independence to the United Nations.
Mr Romney also said he would "recommit" America to the creation of a Palestinian state, apparently contradicting secretly taped remarks he made to potential donors at a campaign fund-raiser in May. Then, he said, Palestinians had "no interest whatsoever" in peace and an American president had to "recognise this is going to remain an unsolved problem".
He was scathing on what he called a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq and drawdown in Afghanistan that, he said, had led to a resurgence of militants in both countries. Both are issues, however, where he no longer has to make those decisions as a result.
Mr Romney also said he wanted to deepen America's "critical cooperation" with Gulf countries. But it was hard to detect any change in policy on Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programme. He would, he said, tighten sanctions, and "not hesitate" to add new ones. He would also put Iran's leaders "on notice" that he would not accept an Iranian nuclear capability.
He did suggest two areas of tangible change: Mr Romney opposes cuts to military spending, would instead invest in the military and expand the navy. He may well find himself forced to explain how he would do that, cut taxes and address America's growing budget deficit.
He would also attach conditions to America's foreign aid, specifically to Egypt and other countries, where Islamist governments have won elections. He did not, however, indicate, how that would help America retain any leverage.
In spite of the lack of detail Mr Romney's central argument is one that has become more persuasive to Americans. Broadly tired of war and reluctant to entertain new military adventures, the American public was given a rude awakening last September 11. The attack on the US consulate in Benghazi that killed four, including the US ambassador, has in some quarters been seen as evidence that Al Qaeda is far from defeated and that America and Americans are facing a growing threat that the current administration has failed to acknowledge.
Mr Romney's tone also betrayed a growing confidence, one borne out by opinion polls showing him not only overtaking Mr Obama in national polls - one Pew Research poll on Monday found Mr Romney leading by four points- but also catching up in the more crucial swing states.
Last week's debate proved that Mr Romney might yet become president. The world tuned in to Monday's speech to see what that would mean. The answer is still not clear.