Romney is expected to meet with U.S. Ambassador Daniel B. Shapiro, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Salam Fayyad, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. His final stop will be in Poland before returning to the United States.
Romney’s advisers said they envision two story lines emerging from his trip, the first being his role running the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. The candidate hopes to use the Olympics spotlight to present himself as someone who “turns around tough situations,” said a senior adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the trip.
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“What is undersold, or not appreciated enough, is how bad a shape the Olympics were in when he took them over,” the adviser said. “It looks easy in retrospect. When you talk to him, it’s one of the toughest things he did. Second, certainly going to Israel is an expression of your priorities in foreign policy. Governor Romney strongly believes in Israel, and in Israel as an ally, and the strongest threat is Iran getting a nuclear bomb.”
Romney’s advisers suggest that the Israel visit will be a symbolic touchstone, in part because it will remind Americans that Obama has not traveled there since he was elected president.
“Governor Romney is there to show in a very visual way” that he supports Israel, Ros-Lehtinen said. “President Obama made a big deal when he went to Egypt [in 2009] and gave that famous speech, yet he couldn’t go down the block and say hello to leaders of the strongest democracy in the Middle East who are besieged by very hostile neighbors.”
The visit to Israel is an opportunity for Romney to expand his support among Jewish voters. Obama has a wide lead among that demographic, 64 percent to 29 percent, according to recent Gallup polling. In 2008, Obama won with 78 percent of Jewish voters.
Overall, Jews are a small fraction of the electorate, but Christian evangelicals make up a much larger share, and many of them strongly support Israel. Richard Land, a leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, said Romney’s visit to Israel is “very, very important for large segments of evangelical voters.”