WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney auditions on the international stage next week as he travels to England, Israel and Poland looking to establish credibility as a potential commander in chief in his challenge to President Barack Obama.
For the Republican presidential hopeful – a former private equity executive and Massachusetts governor with little formal experience overseas – it’s a chance to demonstrate competence in settings often occupied by presidents. He’ll hold formal meetings with foreign leaders, give public speeches and visit historic sites.
There’s also risk: Romney, sometimes prone to misstatements, faces higher stakes wading into delicate diplomatic disputes than he does on the more familiar campaign trail at home. And executing a complicated trip through three countries over a weeklong span presents the most difficult logistical challenge Romney’s campaign has yet faced.
The centerpiece of the trip is a politically delicate visit to Israel, where he will meet with top leaders who are closing in on a critical decision about whether to launch a military strike on Iran that is opposed by the Obama administration. The relationship with Israel and the question of what to do about Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons ambitions represent one of the starkest contrasts between Obama and Romney, who mostly has defined his foreign policy largely in terms of his opponent.
The Israel visit comes on July 28, when Romney will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. Ambassador Daniel Shapiro and President Shimon Peres.
For Romney, the trip will highlight an area where polls show he lags behind his Democratic opponent. A CBS/New York Times poll this week gave Obama a 47 percent to 40 percent lead over Romney on which candidate Americans think would better handle foreign policy.
Romney plans to outline his foreign policy vision in a speech Tuesday to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nev., before flying to London and the Olympic Games. He goes to Israel from there and finishes in Poland.