By John Barron
It’s become something of a campaign tradition: the US presidential candidate makes an overseas trip to shake hands with foreign leaders in famous locations.
Four years ago, Barack Obama’s rock star status was sealed in Berlin with an appearance before an adoring crowd of around 200,000 on Strasse des 17 Juni packed in between the Brandenburg Gate and the Siegessaule victory column.
In one speech, then–Senator Obama wrote himself into the history of the city alongside Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.
Last week Mitt Romney’s name was booed in London by a crowd of 60,000 for questioning their readiness to host the Olympic Games.
Romney had an unfortunate entry onto the international stage last week: first an awkward retelling of a conversation with Australia’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr that became a media flap over America’s "decline." Then an advisor made an inadvisable comment with racial overtones about Romney better understanding the US and UK’s Anglo-Saxon heritage than Obama, and, finally, Romney made that less than unequivocal remark about London’s "disconcerting" Olympics preparations.
Even Tory Prime Minister David Cameron slapped back at Romney when he noted that the Olympics are harder to organise in a major city than in the "middle of nowhere" — an apparent reference to Romney’s stewardship of the Winter Games in the rather more isolated Salt Lake City in 2002.
Romney’s reception in Israel this weekend was warmer, particularly when he stated his belief that Jerusalem was "the capital" (even though Tel Aviv is internationally recognised as both the financial and diplomatic capital and Jerusalem is contested by Israel and the Palestinians). This wasn’t taken as a gaffe; it was an assertion that will likely win him support in places like Florida among older Jewish voters.
It’s a safe bet that if the presidency were being decided in Germany, Britain, or, for that matter, Australia, Mitt Romney probably wouldn’t have a chance at this point.
But of course it’s not, and 100 days out from election day, Romney certainly has a chance — a 40.3 per cent chance according to the latest odds from Intrade.
Romney has just over three months to close the slight gap in national polls — currently just over one-and-a-half per cent according to the average of polls from Real Clear Politics.
The presumptive Republican nominee will soon announce his vice presidential running mate and head towards the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, late in August. In doing so, he has his big chance to reach the vast majority of voters who are yet to tune in to the political process. Despite the 18 month presidential campaign Romney has been running — which is really a continuation of the campaign he began in 2007 — there are still plenty of Americans who don’t know that much about him.
And while the Obama campaign has been doing all they can to try and ensure the voter’s first impression of Romney is a bad one, with their attacks on his tenure at Bain capital, polls still find the Republican is seen as the better economic manager by a massive 64–29 per cent.
Yes, gaffes aside, Mitt Romney is very much in the running, and he may even be just one more bad jobs report from taking the lead. We’ll know later this week.
30 July 2012