During the past few weeks, we’ve seen the advantages of running for president as an incumbent. President Obama has been able to redirect the news coverage away from economic issues for days at a time by holding an interview or taking a trip, while Mitt Romney is often in the position of reacting, playing defense, or trying to keep up.
But Romney isn’t completely without tools for reclaiming the narrative and putting Obama on defense. As several Republican members of Congress told the Hill, Romney could potentially set up a clear contrast between himself and Obama by taking a trip to Israel:
Mitt Romney should visit Israel soon, Republican lawmakers say, claiming that such a trip would highlight the fact that President Obama has not been there during his first term.
Congressional Republicans told the Hill that there would be many benefits for Romney should he go to Israel, explaining that it would both advance U.S.-Israeli relations and help him politically.
“It would be a good visit for him,” said National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas).
Obama’s failure to visit Israel during the past three years, even as he’s made trips to Cairo and Saudi Arabia, is still taken as a slight by many Israel supporters. It’s always possible that he could visit before the election, but making the first trip this late in his first term could also smack of political opportunism and raise fresh questions about whether he’s losing support among Jewish voters. Plus, Israel is not a topic Obama wants to spend much time talking deeply about this election, as his unpopular positions and rocky relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu will invariably come up at some point.
Romney, in contrast, has reportedly had a warm friendship with Netanyahu for decades (though for Israeli political reasons, that might not be on prominent display during the trip). And support for Israel may currently be the most unifying foreign policy issue for conservatives right now, particularly as there has been disagreement about subjects like the Libya intervention and the Afghanistan withdrawal. A visit to Israel could give Romney a chance to hone in on a foreign policy issue that conservatives — and Americans in general — largely agree on, and give Obama something to react to for a change.