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From the very start, Mitt Romney’s campaign was premised on the belief that the economy’s struggles would make President Barack Obama politically vulnerable. Grim economic statistics, the assumption went, would make Romney’s argument for him.

There is little evidence that strategy is working, at least not to the degree that Romney had hoped. Polls show voters growing somewhat more optimistic — and increasingly willing to trust the president as much as they do Romney on jobs and the economy.

With the race now in the home stretch and the debates starting Wednesday, Romney’s campaign appears to be shifting course, abandoning its hope of making the election a referendum on Obama’s jobs record.

Instead, Romney intends to hit the White House with a series of arguments — on energy, health care, taxes, spending and a more direct attack on Obama’s foreign policy record — in an effort to draw sharper distinctions between the candidates and to give voters a choice about who can best change Washington.

In an effort to move beyond the economic argument, Romney accused Obama on Monday of major foreign policy failures in a column published in The Wall Street Journal. Romney said the president had allowed the nation’s influence to atrophy by “stepping away” from America’s allies.

“Amid this upheaval, our country seems to be at the mercy of events rather than shaping them,” Romney wrote. “We’re not moving them in a direction that protects our people or our allies. And that’s dangerous.”

The Republican campaign also hopes to seize on concerns about the nation’s growing debt amid polling results that suggest Romney retains a sizable edge over the president regarding who will rein in spending in Washington.

Romney’s campaign officials say they are simply broadening their message that the past four years have been so disappointing that the nation needs a new direction.

“Our message is very clear, which is we cannot afford four more years like the last four years, and we need a real recovery,” Ed Gillespie, a senior adviser to Romney, said after briefing reporters Monday morning. “Whether it’s job creation, health care, energy or debt, the message is we cannot afford four more years like the last four years. We know this resonates with voters.”