The US Presidential election will be won and lost on the domestic economy, so Mitt Romney’s recent trip to three capitals –London, Jerusalem and Warsaw—provided some distraction in the summer lead-up to the party conventions and the start of the real campaign season in the fall. His itinerary gave the presumptive Republican candidate an opportunity to profile himself to the American electorate: as a successful executive who had organized the Salt Lake City Olympics, as a firm supporter of Israel (in contrast to President Obama who has refrained from visiting there while in office), and as an advocate of the liberty of Eastern Europe. The warm support from Lech Walesa this summer will serve him well in the ballot boxes of western Pennsylvania in November.
Yet Romney is not the first American presidential candidate to campaign through European capitals, and his travels abroad invite a comparison with Barack Obama’s tour just four years ago, especially the main event, the speech at the Victory Column in Berlin in front of an enormous crowd of 200, 000 or more. That demonstration of Obama’s charisma and popularity in Europe certainly strengthened his credibility among American voters, frustrated with the apparent fraying of the Atlantic alliance during the administration of George W. Bush. Obama promised to calm the waters, restore old friendships and build a robust cooperation between the US and Europe.
The Romney visit is a chance to reevaluate the Obama visit and ask: has Obama fulfilled the hope to change the trans-Atlantic divide?