Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney arrived in London today for meeting with senior politicians before participating in the opening ceremonies of the London Olympic Games on Friday.
Meeting with Labor Party Leader Ed Miliband Thursday morning, Romney highlighted the "unique relationship" between the U.S. and U.K., adding "I appreciate the work of the military of this great nation in our joint effort in Afghanistan, the people of Great Britain have sacrificed enormously in helping bring peace to that nation."
Miliband replied it was "great" to have a former Olympics organizer present for their opening ceremonies. Acknowledging the difference between Labour and Republican party ethoses, Miliband said "it's incredibly important" that leader with "different viewpoints on some issues" work together.
Romney will also meet with Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Chancellor George Osborne, Foreign Secretary William Hague and former Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday.
Paralleling then Senator Barack Obama's trip abroad in 2008, the Romney campaign hopes to show the former Massachusetts governor would be an effective foreign policy chief. Romney has consistently polled below Obama on foreign policy experience, the latest Gallup numbers from July 24 showing a 12 point gap between the two men (52 to 40).
However, pundits agree Romney's visit will be much overshadowed by the Olympic games, whereas Obama's was a spectacle culminating in a speech to hundreds of thousands of Germans outside the Victory Column in Berlin.
The week-long trip, which also includes stops in Poland and Israel, was marred before the wheels of Romney's plane hit the ground by both a Daily Telegraph story citing an unnamed source and remarks by the GOP candidate on the ability of London infrastructure to handle the games.
"There are a few things that were disconcerting," Romney told NBC News, referring to the organization of the London games. "The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials - that obviously is not something which is encouraging," he added.
But Romney was more conciliatory when he arrived in the British capital. When asked about the mistake of the London Olympic committee of switching the flags of North and South Korea, Romney conceded "there will be errors from time to time."
"The Games are, after all, about the athletes, the volunteers and the people of the community who come together to celebrate those athletes," he said, adding, "as soon as the Games begin, we all forget the organizers and focus on the athletes."
The Daily Telegraph, a conservative-leaning British daily morning broadsheet, reported this week an anonymous Romney campaign adviser told them, "We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he [Romney] feels that the special relationship is special."
"The White House didn't fully appreciate the shared history we have," the source allegedly added. The Romney campaign fiercely denied the report, saying "It's not true. If anyone said that, they weren't reflecting the views of Governor Romney or anyone inside the campaign."
Obama for America Spokesperson Jen Psaki also commented on the story, telling reporters Wednesday "this is a case where there's a continuous fumbling of the foreign policy football here. And it does raise the question as to whether Mitt Romney and his team are ready to have a serious conversation about foreign policy."
Romney will continue only Poland and Israel later this weekend. In Poland, he will meet with leaders and visit historical sites. In Israel, he is slated to meet PM Benjamin Netanyahu and make a foreign policy address.
by RTT Staff Writer
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