With less than eight weeks before voters do their thing, you can’t waste a day — much less a week. Yet, that’s exactly what former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney did with a series of head-scratching campaign moves that had people talking about everything but President Obama and his handling of the economy.
It began on Monday when the Romney campaign issued a memo from its pollster Neil Newhouse — who, by the way, is among the most respected numbers guys in either party — that sought to beat back the idea that Obama’s convention bounce was anything more than ephemeral. The memo felt thin and defensive, an attempt to push back against a story line that the campaign was insisting didn’t exist.
That was nothing, of course, next to what happened Wednesday morning, when Romney blasted the Obama administration for a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo that, the Republican nominee argued, amounted to America apologizing to the rest of the world. The statement, which condemned “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims,” was issued before protesters stormed the embassy, not afterward. The Obama administration distanced itself from the statement, insisting it didn’t approve of its release.
Events — as they so often do — outran Romney’s comments as it came to light that the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans had been killed during protests in Benghazi that broke out after the Cairo demonstrations.
Romney was left looking like he was trying to score political points rather than mourn those who died. And Obama pounced, telling CBS News that his opponent has a tendency to “shoot first and aim later.”
Putting aside the back and forth about why Romney said what he did when he did, his best strategy in this election is to talk about the still-struggling economy every day between now and Nov. 6. To purposefully divert from that strategy to engage in a battle on foreign policy — a topic few outside Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor care about — is baffling at best and wrongheaded at worst.
Mitt Romney, for frittering away a full campaign week when you could least afford it, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.
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