"Thanks! Boy do I need it!" is what Mitt Romney replied to some of his Jerusalem-based die-hard supporters when they conveyed their deep prayers for him at a scripted foreign policy speech in Jerusalem with the old city in his background.
Mitt Romney is currently undertaking an international tour, attempting to show Americans that he is not only prepared to be president of the United States, but somehow, the leader of the free world. After he tripped in London -- claiming that the British aren't fully prepared for the Olympics -- he came to Israel (a safe haven for any Republican), not to show that he loves Israel, rather that Israel loves him.
It is customary for US presidential candidates to visit the state of Israel during their campaigns. George Bush did it in 2000 and John McCain in 2008, as well as Barack Obama that year, enjoying the status of an international celebrity. There is proper protocol for candidates when they come to Israel -- they have the opportunity to meet Israel's top leaders and discuss issues. Also, candidates cannot speak against the government or leaders of the United States while they are abroad. Mitt Romney heavily hinted in his statements that President Obama's policies regarding Israel are wrong and unjust, trying to steal a chunk of the Jewish vote coming up to November. There is a battle now for the Jewish vote, even though roughly 70 percent of Jews consider themselves Democrats.
Romney's visit to Israel was a day-long photo-op. His speech was built so he could read it, impress the crowd and move on. Romney read his script from the prompters, with enormous admiration for the shared values of Israel and the United States. It's just that when he speaks, one finds it hard to understand and feel the inspiration and the passion in his words. There is no doubt that Romney supports Israel, but as they say, "It's not what you say, it's what people hear." Romney will certainly have trouble catching up to the charismatic and eloquent president during the debates this fall.
With a bit more than 100 days until the election, Romney chose to go abroad. He was warmly received by right wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who appeared very happy to meet with Romney. As former consulting firm colleagues back in the 1970's in Boston, I'm sure it never crossed their minds that they would be doing business once again. The prime minister is surrounded by right-wing former Americans who advise him and are by no coincidence Republican. Mr. Netanyahu knows that if President Obama wins re-election, it will not only be harder for him to maneuver an attack on Iran, but on all things related to the Israeli-American relationship, and that includes a peace process that Mr. Netanyahu's government isn't too excited to take on.
With their mutual friend and fundraiser, Sheldon Adelson, the prime minister knows that Romney, fresh in the White House, will honor Mr. Netanyahu's seniority in the relationship and will be more reluctant to hear out opposition to Mr. Netanyahu and his policies. Although the prime minister cannot involve himself in American politics, he is seriously following the election, and must pray for a Romney victory come November.
Soon after his return to the United States, as the "veepwatch" boils up, Romney will announce his running mate, whose identity is uncertain to anyone. Jay Leno recently joked, "It's taking a while for Romney to hire a running mate because he isn't used to hiring Americans for a job," but jokes aside, his vice-presidential candidate will be thoroughly vetted, and will be the party's best and sharpest offer. The announcement might change the course of the race and give Romney a bump for a few days, depending on the VP candidate's momentum. It's going to be a close race from now until November, and Romney -- as much as he is on offense -- must also be on defense.
As Romney sums up his international tour in Poland and returns to the United States, he will, within 100 days, name a vice-presidential nominee, receive his party's nomination for president at the Republican convention, debate President Obama and attempt to appeal to the hearts of the American people.
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