TRAVELING WITH THE ROMNEY CAMPAIGN – Romney campaign officials have been surprisingly mum on the candidate’s recent surge in the polls, which continues despite a general consensus among establishment media that Obama won the second debate.
Yesterday, the Romney team quietly prepared the candidate to gently deliver well-timed zings at President Obama during the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner in New York City last night, in effect magnifying the impact of Obama’s own self-effacing humor.
From the inside, the Romney campaign has more the feel of a professionally run, initial-public-offering road tour conducted by top Wall Street investment bankers than of a traditional presidential political campaign in which political operatives – for whom it’s just the next in a series of presidential campaigns – jawbone the traveling press about how well this season’s party candidate is doing.
Gallup’s national daily tracking poll of registered voters had Romney up 52 to 45 yesterday and 51 to 45 today.
Today, the Romney motorcade battled afternoon, midtown New York City traffic and contended with drivers of varying skill levels on the New Jersey Turnpike to arrive at Newark Airport with only a 15-minute delay.
Instead of being overly confident, the Romney brain trust seems prepared for a David Axelrod-managed Obama campaign to utilize fully the abundant power of the presidency to stage a game-changing event on the eve of the third and last presidential debate. The topic Monday night in Boca Raton, Fla., will be foreign policy.
At the Newark airport, Romney emerged from his SUV looking relaxed, dressed comfortably in jeans and a light, collared dress shirt.
On the tarmac, he met with about a dozen volunteers and police officers.
Romney shook hands and posed for group and individual pictures before boarding the campaign airplane.
Settled onboard, the Romney team took off for an early evening rally in Daytona Beach, Fla., with country music star John Rich serving as the warm-up act. The event drew 8,500 enthusiastic Romney-Ryan supporters.
Tomorrow, the Romney team heads to Boca Raton to settle in for two intensive days of closed-door debate preparation.
Like IPO investment bankers ever aware that a market can turn unexpectedly against their corporate client, the Romney team is not expecting the Obama administration’s current problems with its troubled narrative on the Benghazi terrorist attack to persist.
The lesson learned from the Benghazi terrorist attack is more than how poorly the Obama team responded to an event that threw into disarray its narrative that killing Osama bin Laden had put al-Qaida to run in a Middle East in which it had positioned the U.S. as a friend, and democracy was taking hold following an Arab Spring overthrow of dictators.
The real lesson appears to be that in a campaign in which foreign policy was not an issue before the murder of Ambassador Stevens, the Obama administration may yet be able to shift the tide with an October-Surprise move before the Boca Raton debate.
Indeed, reports coming from Libya name Ahmed Abu Khattala, the leader of the Benghazi-based radical Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia, as the commander of the terrorist attack that killed Stevens.
A drone strike on Abu Khattala by a determined Obama administration would likely score political points a little more than two weeks before Election Day, Nov. 6.
Yet rarely is the Middle East so simple.
WND has reported the operation of a second militia in the not-completely-told story of the Benghazi terrorist attack – the Libya Shield Brigade, which like Ansar al-Shariah, is known to operate under the black flag of jihad.
Certainly, Abu Khattala did not command the Libya Shield Brigade in addition to Ansar al-Shariah.
Then too, WND has also identified Mohammad Abdullah Aqil, a wealthy and corrupt operator of a Mercedes car dealership in Tripoli, as the principal funder of a resurgent al-Qaida in Tripoli and Abdul Hakem Belhaj, the brother of al-Qaida No. 2 leader Abu Yahya al-Libi, who was killed in a Obama administration-ordered drone attack in Pakistan, as likely suspects in the Benghazi attack.
With Aqil and Belhaj yet alive behind the scenes, the drone-assassination of Khattala would at most be a moderate setback to a growing al-Qaida organization in Libya in which dozens of replacements must be chomping at the bit for their moment of glory leading a jihad brigade into battle.
A well-prepared Romney must be able to anticipate such a development, communicating during the foreign policy debate that the question before the American public is not whether this or that al-Qaida leader in Libya is eliminated in a revenge killing, but why the Obama administration left its ambassador insufficiently protected, believing mistakenly that the Obama doctrine of appeasing radical Islamic terrorists in the Middle East had succeeded.
Nor is Libya the only venue for a Middle East October Surprise.
WND has also reported the Obama administration has cut a last-minute deal with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Iran in which it will work to ease economic sanctions on Tehran in exchange for an agreement to halt uranium enrichment, at least temporarily.
The Romney team has to anticipate that Yukiya Amano, the current director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, might end up, as WND reports, in Tehran Monday morning to announce a top-level accord personally negotiated by White House adviser Valerie Jarrett has been signed.
Here, Romney must counter that, as positive as such a deal may appear, the history of Iran is long on negotiating and short on delivering a meaningful cessation to a nuclear program developing on overdrive.
With his quip at the Al Smith dinner associating Obama administration domestic policy, in true Sesame Street fashion, with the letter “O” and “16 trillion,” the Romney team kept the spotlight on Obama administration economic policy failures.
The task will be to find an equally skillful way to achieve the same effect Monday evening when the subject is foreign policy.
That, Romney campaign spokesmen insist, is the reason the Republican nominee is traveling to Boca Raton early – not to enjoy the beach and sun as fall weather rapidly takes hold, but to use every possible remaining hour to prepare to counter a yet resilient and powerful U.S. president on foreign policy.