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By Janet Zink January 2, 2008

Romney never said those words, but came close

As 2007 wrapped up, Mitt Romney started airing television ads attacking John McCain, who is polling neck and neck with Romney in New Hampshire.

As the new year began, McCain fought back with two Web ads rapping Romney on his foreign policy experience.

The ads claim Romney says the next president doesn't need foreign policy experience.

Romney has never uttered those words, but here's what he did say on the Fox News program Hannity & Colmes :

"If we want somebody who has a lot of experience in foreign policy, we can simply go to the State Department and pluck out one of the tens of thousands of people who work there."

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Romney, whose comments came in the wake of the assassination of Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, also told CNN's Anderson Cooper: "If foreign policy experience were the measure for selecting a president, we'd just go to the State Department and pick up one of the thousands and thousands of people who've spent their whole life in foreign policy."

That has become Romney's standard response to questions about his foreign policy experience. He says the nation needs a leader rather than a specialist in foreign affairs and often cites Ronald Reagan as an example of a strong leader without a foreign policy background.

By contrast, McCain plays up his foreign policy credentials from his time in the Senate, especially his role as an outspoken supporter of additional troops in Iraq.

It's clear that Romney didn't say exactly what McCain has attributed to him. It also is clear that while McCain doesn't quote him directly, he's taking Romney's words a bit too literally. The question then is how to judge the accuracy of what McCain has charged. Did Romney say a president doesn't need foreign policy experience? Mostly, yes he did.

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Romney never said those words, but came close

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