Mitt’s VFW Focus Group

It’s not surprising that Mitt Romney chose a highly sympathetic audience (the VFW) to deliver an obligatory Big Foreign Policy speech prior to his obligatory pre-election overseas tour. But you’d think a challenger to an incumbent president with high foreign policy ratings who himself had no foreign policy credentials to speak of would have felt the need to, you know, say something substantive. Nobody expected the articulation of a full-blown Romney Doctrine yesterday, but best I can tell from his prepared remarks, what we got was the equivalent of one of those Frank Luntz focus groups: You like this phrase? How’s about this buzzword? Am I sounding authethic ? This line’s for you, Christian-conservatives-and-Jews!

Aside from the usual sniping at the usual distortions of Obama’s alleged apologies and prevarications, Romney mainly seemed determined to covey attitude: resolve, clairity, toughness, strength, strength, strength! It was more than a bit annoying to hear him denounce the pending defense spending sequestration as “Obama’s defense cuts,” insofar as the sequestration was originally hatched by congressional Republicans. He also singled out VA cuts as especially objectionable, which was interesting since expanding the sequestration to include the VA and homeland security spending was the particular idea of defense hawks seeing to reduce the impact on the Pentagon.

But whatever. Mitt checked some boxes, fed a conservative audience some red meat, and can now cross the Atlantic and try to look statesmanlike. It’s another default-drive moment in a largely default-drive campaign that still seems based on the idea that economic statistics will deliver the White House and Congress to the GOP.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.