How Mitt Romney lost on Libya — in 1 chart

September 17, 2012

After awarding Mitt Romney the "Worst Week in Washington" for his seemingly premature attempt at political point-scoring following protests in  Egypt and Libya, we heard from LOTS of you telling us that we had, well, swung and missed.

While some of the language was unprintable, the gist of the criticism was that President Obama deserved blame for what was happening in the Middle East and that by focusing on a single statement from Romney we were totally missing the point. (Wouldn't be the first time!)

But now comes polling data from the Pew Research Center that suggests Romney's comments were not well received by the general public -- a direct contrast to the generally positive response Obama's actions in the region drew.

Here are those numbers in a single chart:

Now, these numbers are not without caveats.

1.   The numbers are derived from the 82 percent of people who told Pew they were following the events -- whether closely or not that closely -- in the Middle East. That, of course, means that 18 percent of people tested by Pew said they weren't following what was happening in Libya closely and their views were not represented in the numbers above.

2. The situation in Libya, Egypt and beyond continues to evolve. The longer protests continue, the more the focus will likely shift from Romney's statement last Tuesday to the efficacy of the policies that President Obama has put into place. And that added level of scrutiny -- amid images of ongoing violence -- could turn the issue into much more of a negative for Obama.

3. Foreign policy won't decide the election -- or come anywhere close to deciding it.   People who followed the recent conflict in the Middle East may not have loved how Romney responded but there's little evidence that anything outside of the economy and other domestic policy matters will be deciding influences on how voters -- particularly those who are still undecided --make up their minds.

All fair enough. Less fair, we think, is the allegation that the media sets the narrative of the campaign and decided, wrongly, that a single Romney statement mattered more than the broader indictment of Obama's policies that the protests revealed.

Regardless, the numbers from Pew do make one thing abundantly clear: For those following the Middle East situation over the past seven days, Mitt Romney came off worse than did President Obama -- for a week at least.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House for the newspaper and Web site.
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Aaron Blake | September 17, 2012