Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has found a way to halt his campaign's momentum with an another unforced verbal error.
First, Romney was tweaked Thursday by British Prime Minister David Cameron for implying that London was not prepared to host the Olympics, set to start Friday. Then London Mayor Boris Johnson piled on, by mocking him in front of a crowd of tens of thousands.
"I hear there's a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we're ready. He wants to know whether we're ready. Are we ready?" Johnson said.
For someone known as analytical and calculating, it's remarkable that Romney has continually been plagued by short-sighted comments on the campaign trail – it's something that dogged him throughout the GOP primaries and allowed the likes of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich to linger in the race. Months after the former Massachusetts governor might have wrapped things up, he was still forced to spend millions in television advertisements in states like Florida, Michigan and Tennessee because he failed to decisively put voters' at ease with his conservative credentials and ability to compete with President Barack Obama.
Contributing comments included offering to make a $10,000 bet with Texas Gov. Rick Perry during a primary debate, saying he "wasn't concerned about the very poor," attending a NASCAR race and saying while he wasn't a huge fan of the sport, he had "great friends" that were immensely wealthy team owners, as well as offering up that he likes to fire people.
In London, riding a wave of momentum thanks to clumsy remarks made by Obama that implied small business owners were not primarily responsible for their own success, Romney offended the Brits because of a seeming inability to gracefully praise the Olympic host city.
"Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment?" Romney said during an interview with NBC News. "That's something which we only find out once the games actually begin."
The former Massachusetts governor is credited with salvaging a struggling 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, adding weight to his comments, in which he also called some of the things he'd seen in London so far as "disconcerting."
Romney had hoped to show off his foreign policy bona fides by taking a three-country tour while campaigning for the presidency, but instead he's highlighted one of his biggest vulnerabilities – he makes it hard for voters to warm up to him.
Stumping on behalf of Romney in Iowa, Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal dismissed the mini-controversy, which generated headlines across England.
"The reality is I think we're not worried about overseas headlines, but we're worried about voters back here in America," he said during a conference call with reporters. "We're all rooting for our American athletes, we hope they come back with a bunch of medals and I'm sure they're going to be very successful. The reality is that the focus needs to continue to be on the issues that are important to voters back home."
Jindal added that the focus of voters in Iowa and elsewhere is on the economy.
"Their primary concerns are about the economy, the unsustainable level of borrowing," he said. "I think the focus needs to continue to be on what's happening here at home, that's what's important to American voters."
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, also campaigning on behalf of Romney, added simple, "I agree."
Truth be told, as with most of the day-to-day ups and downs, the overseas kerfuffle likely won't alter voters' opinions at home.
But the damage lies in the quelling of gently building momentum that the Republican had going for him when he left for his trip.
A Gallup poll released Thursday showed the president's unpopularity with small business owners growing, likely a result of Romney's assault on Obama's clumsy remark that, "if you've got a business, you didn't build that on your own."
Such small shifts are magnified in importance because the two men continue to be locked in a dead heat for the White House.
Romney will travel to Israel and Poland before returning back to the United States.
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.