September 30, 2012

Politico: Romney’s the One With an Adviser-Related Libya Problem

Let’s see. Who has the bigger problem with Libya and the Middle East? Is it the guy who’s in charge with a foreign policy in disarray who has described the first murder of a U.S. ambassador in 33 years a “bump in the road“? Or his presidential campaign challenger Mitt Romney?

If we’re to believe Mike Allen, Jim VandeHei, and Politico, it’s Romney, where “Romney advisers at odds over Libya” was the only thing visible on my computer screen when I went to the web site’s home page at 10 p.m. ET. You have to go almost all the way to the bottom of the home page to see stories about how “at odds” Obama administration advisers have been and still are about the U.S. positions on Libya, terrorism, Israel, and the Middle East during the past several weeks. Several paragraphs from the Romney story, wherein one learns that there really isn’t much in the way of conflict, accompanied by yet another round of “the polls say Romney’s doomed,” follow the jump (bolds are mine):

Advisers to Mitt Romney are split over how broadly and aggressively to attack President Barack Obama for his handling of foreign policy following the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, according to top Republicans close to the campaign.

Some aides are arguing that the campaign has been given a huge gift: a new opening to argue White House failure and incompetence. “Across the board – domestic, economic and foreign-policy issues – President Obama has been outmatched by events,” said a Romney adviser advocating an aggressive response to the chaos in the Middle East. “He’s an observer of events, not a shaper of events. Everywhere you look, he’s been outmatched.”

The truth is Romney now finds himself besieged with conflicting advice, internally and externally: Attack Obama harder. Offer a detailed agenda. Pivot to foreign policy. Pivot back to the economy.

Romney’s response: Ignore it and stick to the game plan, which does not include any serious, sustained detour into foreign policy. His internal polls show the same thing as Obama’s: Voters just don’t care much about foreign policy in this election. This is the reason Obama was so quick to drop his attack on Romney for not mentioning the troops or Afghanistan in his convention speech. Voters didn’t seem to care.

This is basically the Stuart Stevens doctrine. And regardless of the passionate arguments of some other aides, including several outside foreign-policy advisers, the boss is going with Stevens on this until further notice.

… The Romney advisers who want to exploit the Libya issue call it an opportunity to go all-in on the foreign policy failures as a stand-in for overall failure of the president. “If you’re running a campaign and you’re failing, then you’ve got to try to change the subject to something that will help you succeed,” one of these advisers said.

The campaign’s internal polls of key states show a broad hardening of support for Obama and softening support for Romney. And the campaign expects forthcoming public polls from Ohio, Virginia and Nevada will be terrible for Romney.

Would anyone at Politico want to try to explain, in light of this alleged “hardening” of support for Obama, why the President’s approval rating at Gallup in what is supposed to be a three-day rolling average poll has “somehow” dropped by four points in the past two days?

Maybe it’s because the Obama administration’s self-implosion on foreign policy has finally become sufficiently visible, in which case the old adage that “when your opponent is self-destructing, just stay out of the way” would appear to apply. If so, Team Romney’s posture looks appropriate — and Politico is making a mountain out of something that isn’t even a molehill.

Cross-posted at


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