Republican strategists are worried that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama will make a very positive impression and burnish his international credentials when he takes his much-ballyhooed foreign trips in the coming weeks.
"It has the potential to be a big plus for Obama," says a senior Republican who has advised several presidents over the years. "The American people know we are not liked overseas anymore, and it bothers them. People feel that Obama could help change that."
To reinforce such an image, Obama is billing himself as a new type of commander in chief who will listen to America's allies far more than George W. Bush has—and that is expected to be a major theme of his sojourns.
GOP candidate John McCain, who is currently on his own trip to Colombia and Mexico, has been needling Obama for his lack of foreign policy experience, and has often pointed out that Obama has not visited Iraq in many months. (Obama was there in January 2006 as part of a congressional delegation.)
Now that's about to change. Obama has announced plans to visit Great Britain, France, Germany, Israel, and Jordan in the coming weeks—and also travel to Iraq and Afghanistan before the Democratic National Convention in August.
When these trips were first disclosed, GOP advisers saw the potential for Obama to make some serious gaffes or otherwise reveal his ignorance of global and national security issues. Now many of them believe that with the kind of excellent advance work and the depth of preparation for which the Obama campaign is known, he will probably look knowledgeable, diplomatic, and presidential.
And that could be bad news for McCain, GOP insiders say.
—Kenneth T. Walsh