(Photo: Reuters/Jason Reed)
After a rocky start, the Romney campaign is focusing its European tour on Mitt's trip to Israel as a key factor in evangelical support for the presidential contender in November.
Pundits say that Romney carefully picked allies with strained relationships with the Obama administration – Great Britain, Israel and Poland – as the focus of his first European trip as a presidential candidate. According to Charles Krauthammer in an opinion piece published today in The Washington Post, this is Mitt's plan:
"Each destination suggests a somewhat more subtle affinity: Britain, playing to our cultural connectedness with the Downton Abbey folks who've been at our side in practically every fight for the last hundred years; Poland, representing the 'new Europe,' the Central Europeans so unashamedly pro-American; Israel, appealing to most American Jews but also to an infinitely greater number of passionately sympathetic evangelical Christians."
Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told CP that Romney's number one priority during this trip will be to let Israelis – and most evangelicals in the U.S. – know that America stands with them.
"Gov. Romney needs to reinforce and underscore that the U.S. will have Israel's back and that there won't be any attempt to put distance between America and Israel," said Land. "Any attempt to put distance between the U.S. and Israel only discourages our friends and encourages our enemies."
Romney's trip got off to a rough start even before he touched down on London soil over comments attributed to an aide who indicated Romney had an understanding of British-U.S. relations because of a shared "Anglo-Saxon" heritage, which prompted cries of foul by liberals as a racist reference.
The former Massachusetts governor attempted to distance himself from the comment, saying he didn't know exactly who made the statement. But Romeny himself also attracted the ire of the British Prime Minister and the Mayor of London with a passing comment that he was worried about Olympic game security.
Romney tried to make amends to the British for these awkward moments by asserting that if he is elected he wants to return a bust of Winston Churchill to the Oval Office. Obama removed the bust and sent it back to the British Embassy early in his presidency.
Obama curiously signed legislation today actually approved by Congress in May that would give Israel $70 million in seed money to develop a short range defense missile, a move that had the mainstream press asking whether it was an attempt to upstage the Romney visit.
In his Washington Post opinion piece, Krauthammer commented about Romney's strategy with Israeli officials:
"In Israel, Romney will undoubtedly say nothing new. He'll just reiterate his tough talk on Iran's nuclear program. But I suspect he'll let the Israelis know privately that, contrary to the conventional wisdom that his hawkishness signals his readiness to attack Iranian nuclear facilities, his real intent is to signal that, unlike Obama, he is truly committed to permitting Israel to do what it needs to defend itself. This will be welcome news to a nation that has never asked anyone to fight on its behalf, just a green light to defend itself without impediments or veiled threats from its friends.
"Most important, however, is to just show up. That's 80 percent of life, Woody Allen once noted. No need to say much. Romney's very presence will make the statement."
In addition to Israel, Romney will also visit Poland and meet with key leaders in the former Communist country. Here experts say he will reassure the Poles that the United States will stand by its commitment to a missile defense system in the country, something that was called into question in a unguarded open mike moment between Obama and Russian officials in which Obama asserted he would be more amenable to dropping the missile system after he was re-elected.