In contrast, as Romney arrives for a week-long run through Britain and Poland, with a trip to Israel in between, the Republican presidential candidate remains relatively unknown in Europe. His first stop in London has received miserly coverage in the back pages of British newspapers, where he is often characterized by his wealth and Mormon religion. Over the course of an hour in this city’s busy Paddington Station this week, eight of 15 people stopped by a reporter were not sure who Romney was.
“Is he the millionaire?” Barbara Bolan, 64, a retired optician, asked with a puzzled look.
That is, perhaps, exactly the way Romney wants it. Observers cite his seeming reluctance to discuss his time in France as a young Mormon missionary, and the intense if pragmatic Republican focus on his domestic image, as evidence that Romney is happy to stage a low-key tour. Republicans may even consider too much of an outpouring a drawback, given the liberal-leaning image of European politicians. For instance, British Prime Minister David Cameron — a conservative with whom Romney will meet on Thursday — is openly pushing to legalize same-sex marriage and has proudly called his administration the “greenest” in the nation’s history.
There is also the reality that Obama — credited with dramatically boosting the image of the United States in a region that had little love for President George W. Bush — remains so popular in Europe that trying to outshine him here would be too high a bar.
“The Republican Party today is about what’s happening at home, it’s about domestic issues,” said Xenia Dormandy, senior fellow at Chatham House in London. “It’s not looking for a discussion on America’s reputation in the world. Because if Romney gets into that debate, especially in Europe, he is going to lose.”
Romney’s trip should, however, offer him a chance to portray himself as an international statesman. Cameron, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will welcome him. In addition, Romney will meet with opposition leaders and other notable figures, including former British prime minister Tony Blair and the Polish Solidarity icon Lech Walesa.
On Friday, Romney will meet with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, and aides said he may join other foreign dignitaries in London for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, which he plans to attend. He is not expected to deliver formal remarks in Britain.