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Posted at 09:18 AM ET, 07/31/2012

Mitt Romney’s overseas jaunt v. Obama’s 2008 voyage: What a difference staffing makes


Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and his wife Ann board their charter plane in Israel. (Charles Dharapak - AP)
Even before he was wheels-up for London, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s overseas trip was drawing comparisons to then-presidential candidate Barack Obama’s 2008 overseas trip.

Both were candidates looking to appear presidential and polish up their foreign-policy credentials.

But where Obama’s trip was smooth sailing (save a kerfuffle about a cancelled visit with wounded troops), Romney’s voyage has been laden with cringe-inducing gaffes.

So what’s the difference — other than four years and two vastly different candidates? Here’s one big distinction:the Obama campaign loaded up on staff firepower while the Romney camp had a relative ghost crew. Our colleague Philip Rucker noted the disparity in his story on Friday (in which he reported that Romney was looking for a “breakout moment” in Israel that would salvage the trip--a hope that wasn’t borne out this week when the GOP candidate managed to tick off Palestinians).

“When Barack Obama traveled overseas as a candidate in 2008, it was an all-hands-on-deck event...By contrast, Romney’s top political advisers stayed home,” Rucker reported.

Just how lopsided were the staffs? We dug around for the rosters.

For his trip, Obama got assists from at least 14 top staffers and advisors, many of whom were heavy hitters with serious foreign policy and economic credentials. They included former National Security Advisor Tony Lake; former Deputy National Security Advisor James Steinberg; former White House and State Department official Greg Craig; former assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice; former National Security Council staffer Ivo Daalder; longtime diplomat and State Department official Dennis Ross; former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig; former Under Secretary of Commerce Robert Shapiro; retired Air Force Major General Scott Gration; senior foreign policy advisor Denis McDonough; foreign policy speechwriter Ben Rhodes; chief strategist David Axelrod; communications director Robert Gibbs; and spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Romney, on the other hand, has only three senior staffers with him for the entire trip: policy director Lanhee Chen; foreign policy aide Alex Wong; and press secretary Andrea Saul.

Romney supplemented the trio at various stops along the way: in London, former senator Jim Talent (R-Mo.)and former Massachusetts lieutenant governor Kerry Healey met the gang; in Israel, former Council on Foreign Relations adjunct senior fellow Dan Senor hopped on board; chief strategist Stuart Stevens joined for the Israel and Poland legs; and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Ian Brezinski came to Poland.

So lest anyone question the power of staffing...

By  |  09:18 AM ET, 07/31/2012

 
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