When a U.S. presidential candidate goes on a world tour, it is not for better understanding of the world’s problems. It is about the election. This is crucial to understand when weighing up Mitt Romney’s current foreign trip from the American point of view. For Barack Obama in 2008, the people who listened to him in the shadow of the Victory Column in Berlin were merely a backdrop. His speech was not directed at the Germans.
So Mitt Romney will be able to cope with irritating his British hosts with a critical comment about the chaotic organization of the Olympics. Naturally, the U.S. press reported the blunder with as much relish as they explored the question of whether Romney’s wife Ann sending one of her horses to the Olympics dressage competition would further intensify Romney’s image as super-rich and divorced from the real world.
Yet those are the headlines for the summer season, because the average American voter is too concerned with his own economic problems to feel unsettled that the British tabloid press was stirred up. Romney’s world tour was no road show for the broad U.S. public, which is rather disinterested in world politics. Central foreign policy topics were put aside from the outset. Contrary to initial rumors of a visit to Germany, Romney didn’t visit any Euro country. He also avoided the trouble spot of Afghanistan.
The initially snappy talk of the Republican on Afghanistan has quickly put off the mostly war-weary voters.
“But once the incendiary flourishes are stripped away, the actual foreign policy differences between the two seem more a matter of degree and tone than the articulation of a profound debate about the course of America in the world today,” wrote “The New York Times” over the weekend.
The trip was planned with Romney’s typical manager-pragmatism. Even the visit to Great Britain paid off in spite of the gaffes. At a fundraising event, the Republican collected many campaign contributions from Americans living in London.
Romney had a specific audience in mind in Israel and Poland as well. Barack Obama’s clumsy attempts to move the Israeli allies to more concessions to the Palestinians at the beginning of his term of office have not been forgotten by Jewish voters. Even more important for Romney is demonstrating to the center of the Republican grassroots that he is in line. Christian fundamentalists in the U.S. have long been skeptical of the Mormon Romney. The religiously-motivated, rock-solid support of Israel is a must for them.
Poland is last on the agenda, scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, because crucial states, mostly in the Midwest, have a large number of voters of Polish heritage. Obama offers an open flank here because the discussion of a new defense system against nuclear weapons has been viewed unfavorably in Poland. The U.S. President reportedly gave in to Russian demands too early in the conflict about this system. For the broad U.S. public, that is not a hot topic. For the aforementioned voting group of Polish heritage, Romney hopes it is.