Mitt Romney traveled to a military college yesterday and said some important things about some important foreign policy issues. He sounded like a president. The problem is, he is a candidate for president, and the election in which he is running will turn on the economy.
It is honest, serious and right for Romney and other candidates for federal office to explain their worldview. Whether or not it is wise to do so less than 30 days before the election is a different story. For Romney to dedicate time to national security issues carries at least two risks. One is that it is off-message. The election is mostly about the economy. Period. Romney has the president on the back foot. The Obama team is probably desperate to change the subject. Why do the campaign a favor?
Second, any mention of the challenges we face abroad is vulnerable to being perceived by some voters — especially some women — as being too militaristic. It also reminds them of their concerns over America facing — or worse, initiating — foreign conflicts involving U.S. troops.
Romney's triumph in the debate is now showing up in the polls, but that doesn't mean voters suddenly have new priorities. If anything, with the exception of the surreal jobs report that came out last week, there are fresh reminders of the economic peril that Americans face. Gasoline prices in California are setting records, and Americans there are on the brink of gasoline scarcity. California is not in play in 2012, but what happens in that state is not irrelevant either.
Also, the International Monetary Fund is lowering its already bad forecast for economic growth. Voters don't care about IMF economic studies, but they do care about the mounting evidence showing that we are heading for another recession. It is impossible for President Obama to argue that he has a credible plan to stop our economic decline.
Anyway, the campaign doesn't need more hand-wringers and second-guessers, but straying from a message about the economy invites worriers like me to worry.