Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

And maybe Romney’s blast at Obama for sympathizing with anti-American Muslims didn’t work so well, generating sharp criticism even from leading Republicans.

Romney needed to “present himself as serious, poised and credible during this time,” Ed Rogers, a veteran GOP operative and Reagan and Bush I White House aide told our colleague Phil Rucker on Wednesday. “I thought his statement . . . unpolished, a little too off-the-cuff for the occasion, and the contrast he set with Obama was not good.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who blasted Obama’s policies Thursday morrning, was later asked by ABC-TV’s Jonathan Karl about Obama’s response to the attacks in Libya and Egypt. “I think it was fine,” McCain said.

Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler compared Romney’s stance with Reagan’s and Bush’s statements during the 1980 campaign after Jimmy Carter’s disastrous effort to free the Iranian hostages.

“This is a difficult day for all of us Americans.” Reagan said. “It is time for us . . . to stand united. It is a day for quiet reflection . . . when words should be few and confined essentially to our prayers.”

Bush said: “I unequivocally support the president — no ifs, ands or buts. . . . He made a difficult, courageous decision.”

But that’s so very, very old school, back in a time before winning the daily news cycle became the only important thing.

So the fact is this race is up for grabs. There are still three huge televised debates on tap, economic numbers to be crunched and battleground states in play.

That’s why Loop fans need to remember to enter the Loop’s quadrennial Pick the President Contest.

Simply predict:

●The winning candidate.

●The number of electoral votes he’ll receive.

●His percentage of the popular vote.

Up to 20 entries choosing the correct candidate will win — the 10 closest to the electoral-vote total and the 10 closest to the popular-vote percentage (specify to the tenth of a point). Ties go to entries first received.

Winners get one of our highly coveted Loop T-shirts.

Send entries — only one set of predictions per person — to Be sure to provide your name, profession, mailing address and T-shirt size (M, L or XL), in case you’re a winner.

(Congressional and Obama administration aides may enter “on background.”)

You must include a phone number — home, work or cell — to be eligible. Deadline for entries is midnight Friday.