Mitt Romney, presumptive Republican nominee for President, is in Israel now to hold high-level meetings with his “friend,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to host a fundraiser for high-rollers.
I thought about going myself, but $50,000 a plate was a tad too steep for my taste. (Of course, I could also get a few of my friends together and raise $100,000.)
Romney’s trip couldn’t be timed better, politically speaking. He’s taking advantage of the fact he’s running against a president who hasn’t visited Israel yet while in office.
Bibi (I mean, if they’re really best buds, Mittens totally calls the PM Bibi, right?) has declared Romney a friend to the state of Israel – and now he’s trying to cash in on that with a media-blitz trip to Israel that’ll sear the image of Romney at the Western Wall into the minds of every American voter. Going up against an incumbent is difficult – so challengers have to do everything they can to appear more statesman-like.
Elevating oneself to diplomat in the international community is an important accolade on the presidential-looking checklist. Romney has decided Israel should be his first step up to the big leagues. This will surely help him with conservatives, who favor Israel, and with Jews, a group Romney is losing by considerable gap.
A February Gallup poll determined 80% of Republicans are favorable toward Israel, as are 71% of independents and 65% of Democrats. The American people are overwhelmingly supportive of Israel – which is why criticizing the President for not showing enough brotherly love looks like a smart move to his opponents. (Never mind the fact that Obama has consistently upheld the status quo of decades of official U.S.-Israel foreign policy.)
While it is remains true that not every President gets a chance to visit Israel in their first-term (Bush 43 included) – with polling data ranging from 65% to 80% favorability – you figure all things Israel would at least be on the “first 100-days” memo.
Say you’re a strategist for Romney: Your candidate’s favorables are hovering near their lowest since the end of primary season. And if you’re looking at the same polling data I am, the only good news you’ve had in the past week is pulling up to within a point of the President in Colorado and pulling up by 3 in Florida.
You’ve failed to pick up points in key swing states and among minority demographics; the gender-gap has widened, along with the Hispanic-voter gap, and you are just nearly laughed off the stage at the NAACP. You are liked by White males and rich White folks and your right wing is tolerating you.
Despite all of this, you are fundraising through the roof. Independents, undecideds, unaffiliateds and un-informeds are being presented with all of this information and remain independent, undecided, unaffiliated and ill-informed.
What do you do? (Pause for thought). Exactly! – what any good quarterback does – call an audible. So you host a $50,000-per-plate fundraiser in Israel and display one of the greatest differences between you and the sitting president:
Your candidate rides into Jerusalem on the wave of a massively popular ideal, trying to raise himself to the level of statesmen – not an easy task. To become president, you have to convince the voters you are already presidential – which is difficult to do standing next to a president with a not-terrible job approval rating. (Although your candidate’s super-presidential hair certainly helps.)
Obama hopes to curb the effect of the trip by sending (even more popular) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Come the first week of August we’re going to see a Romney campaign finally picking up steam. Well, either that, or it’ll just flop dead in the water.
This race will be competitive through November – though smart money says we’re in for a message alteration upon Romney’s Republican convention coronation. Especially if July’s labor statistics are better than expected.