Most reviews of Mitt Romney's gaffe-laden campaign trip to Great Britain, Israel, and Poland have been less than glowing: "I find this entire trip borderline lunacy," a GOP strategist tells The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake. Indeed, "Romney should have stayed home," says Roger Simon at Politico. Not surprisingly, the Romney campaign doesn't agree with the prevailing assessment: Top Romney strategist Stuart Stevens told reporters that the six-day tour was "a great success, generally." Here, four reasons Team Romney's take on his tour abroad may be more than just spin:
1. He locked up the pro-Israel vote
The London leg of the trip was marred by faux controversies, but Romney's Israel visit "can fairly be characterized as triumphant," says John Hinderaker at Power Line. Without explicitly criticizing Obama, Romney gave a ringing pro-Israel speech that "was widely hailed in Israel as well as in the U.S., and probably enhanced his standing with many American Jews." Jewish voters make up only about 4 percent of the U.S. electorate, but they comprise enough of the vote in battleground states like Florida to tip the election, and Romney certainly made some friends among this group with his tough talk on Iran and Palestine.
2. He raked in a small fortune in donations
When he wasn't making news with his critiques of Obama and foreign nations, Romney held lucrative fundraisers in London and Jerusalem. "Presidential candidates are allowed to raise money overseas, as long as the donors are American citizens," says Steve Coll at The New Yorker, and both Obama and John McCain held overseas fundraisers in 2008. But Romney's well-heeled donors were an unusually integral part of his trip, and it paid off: The Republican raised $2 million in London, more than $1 million in Israel, and sealed the deal with conservative pro-Israeli casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who has already given $10 million to pro-Romney groups and has pledged up to $90 million more.
3. He got a boost from Poland's anti-Soviet hero
The GOP presidential hopeful ended his tour on a high note, getting an implicit endorsement from Polish human rights hero Lech Walesa. The former Polish president, anti-communist trade union leader, and Nobel Peace Prize winner told Romney "I wish you to be successful, because this success is needed to the United States, of course, but to Europe and the rest of the world, too." Of course, Polish citizens can't vote in November, but key swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania have large Polish-American populations, says Rick Moran at American Thinker, so its likely that the blessing of the spry "old freedom fighter" Walesa earned Romney at least "a few votes in the Great Lakes states."
4. He showed he has conviction
"The dig on Mitt Romney has been he's too calculating and lacks core values," but that squishy Mitt was nowhere to be seen on this tour, says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post. In Israel, Britain, and Poland, Romney was "unapologetic" about his beliefs, refused to be "a prisoner of diplomatic doublespeak to avoid faux-offense-taking by international players," and gave "blunt and thoughtful" answers on everything from the Olympics to Palestinian economic mistakes. The press may not like such bald truth-telling, but "if this is the Romney we're going to see during the balance of the campaign, Obama is in deep trouble."