Romney's gaffe-laden jaunt will not affect his chances


Read the headlines and it was the candidate's foreign trip from hell: a succession of mishaps capped by an expletive-laden tirade from an exasperated aide to an equally exasperated group of reporters. In fact, Mitt Romney's foray to Britain, Israel and Poland is likely to have only the tiniest impact on his chances of winning the White House in November.

Last night President Barack Obama's Republican challenger was heading back to the US from Warsaw, scene of a final brouhaha, as his travelling press secretary lashed out at reporters who yelled questions at Mr Romney after he laid a wreath at Poland's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

In reality the political consequences of the dust-up will probably be small, if it is even remembered come election day, still three months off.

These last five days abroad may not have burnished his credentials as America's commander-in-chief and diplomat-in-chief as they were designed to do. But that would have been hard to achieve anyway, given Mr Obama's commanding lead – so rare for a Democrat – over Mr Romney when voters are asked which candidate they most trust to handle foreign policy. More fundamentally, except in times of major war, foreign policy issues do not decide US elections. This year that is truer than ever, with high unemployment and a sluggish economy the overriding concern for voters. Worries about the Middle East, even about a nuclear-armed Iran, are far down the list.

If anything, the controversies generated by the Republican challenger's trip have confirmed what was already obvious. However hard he tries, Mr Romney seems to carry a tin ear everywhere he goes. He runs a campaign extraordinarily disciplined even by American standards. But time and again, he manages to lurch off script.

Romney infuriated Palestinians by suggesting "cultural" differences were why Israel had a per capita GDP double that of the rump Palestinian state.