Obama, Romney to address VFW in Reno

President Barack Obama and his GOP presidential challenger, Mitt Romney, will address the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno this month, speaking to an influential organization that is a popular election-year stop for White House occupants and aspirants.

The VFW on Tuesday announced Obama's speaking role, set for July 23, the day before Romney's.

"We are very grateful to President Obama for choosing to address America's oldest and largest major combat veterans' organization," said VFW National Commander Richard L. DeNoyer, a retired Marine and Vietnam combat veteran from Middleton, Mass.

Romney spoke to the VFW convention last year after he already was running for president.

Now, as the presumptive GOP nominee, he's expected to deliver a major foreign policy speech at the VFW before going on an overseas trip, including stops in London for the Olympics and Israel, Politico reported.

Obama has spoken twice to the VFW's annual convention as a presidential candidate in 2007 and in 2008. He also addressed the veterans group in 2009 after he won the White House.

Vice President Joe Biden spoke at the 2010 VFW convention. Last year, the White House ruffled VFW feathers when Obama and Biden skipped the convention of the veterans' group, which has 2 million members.

With the nation at war for more than a decade and the White House at stake this year, VFW leaders said it's more important than ever to hear from the president and his GOP opponent.

"The very survival of this country depends on those who serve in uniform," said Joe Davis, director of public affairs for the VFW. "What we want to do is hear from the sitting president and his challenger what they're going to do to take care of veterans, service members and their families."

Davis said the VFW doesn't endorse candidates and, like the country, is divided.

"Politically, we're just like the rest of the nation," Davis said. "Half our membership is going to love what the president says. And half are going to love what the governor says."

Davis said the VFW always invites the incumbent and his presidential challengers to its conventions.

The 113th annual VFW convention in Reno runs July 21 through July 26. From 12,000 to 15,000 delegates are expected to attend the event at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. About 6,000 convention-goers are expected to be on the convention floor for the separate Obama and Romney speeches, Davis said.

Romney's overseas trip this summer takes a page from the 2008 Obama campaign playbook when the Democrat won flattering headlines as he traveled to several countries during the campaign.

According to a recent story in Politico, Romney is tentatively planning to travel to London for the start of the Olympics after his Reno speech to the VFW and give a speech on U.S. foreign policy there too.

Romney would then visit Israel to meet with both Israeli and Palestinian officials, Politico reported.

The Romney campaign also is considering stops in Germany and Poland, a strong U.S. ally during the Bush administration and a place where Romney could address any concerns about Russia, according to Politico.

Contact reporter Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal .com or 702-387-2919. Follow her on Twitter @lmyerslvrj.