Obama's bright light looking dimmer

Obama’s pressure piles on close to US election with his foreign policy in the spotlight.

United States President Barack Obama. Picture: AFP

WASHINGTON - If you thought Mitt Romney was the only presidential candidate whose problems were piling up in the final stretch of the 2012 election campaign, think again.

From Middle East upheaval to the troubled Afghan war effort to a more assertive Russia, President Barack Obama is facing pressures that threaten to chip away at a foreign policy record his aides hoped would be immune to Republican attack.

The White House is increasingly concerned but isn't hitting the panic button, yet. Administration officials are heartened by Republican challenger Mitt Romney's own recent foreign policy stumbles and doubt Obama's critics will gain traction in a campaign focused mainly on the US economy.

As a result, when Obama speaks inside the cavernous UN General Assembly hall on Tuesday exactly six weeks before the US election, he will seek to reassure American voters as well as world leaders he is on top of the latest global challenges. But he won't propose any new remedies or bold initiatives.

There will be close scrutiny of how far he goes in talking tough about Iran's nuclear program - but even on that point, aides say privately he will not break new policy ground.

Obama's final turn on the world stage before facing voters will be a reflection of where his priorities lie. Despite simmering global crises, he will skip traditional private meetings with foreign counterparts and squeeze his UN visit into just 24 hours so he can jump back on the campaign trail.

However, Obama will make time in New York on Monday to tape an appearance on the popular TV talk-show _The View _- a scheduling decision that had campaign aides scrambling to defend the president's choice of voter outreach over diplomacy.

UN delegates shouldn't take it personally.

"It's just that they don't vote," said Joseph Cirincione, a foreign policy expert at the Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation.

But Obama's relatively low-key UN itinerary will also be a stark reminder that the heady optimism that greeted him when he took office promising to be a transformational statesman has cooled, giving way to geopolitical realities.