The Fix Live: Can Romney take Obama on foreign policy?

Mar 30, 2012

Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney is preparing to broaden his challenge to President Obama?s management of foreign affairs, sensing political vulnerability in an area in which the incumbent has received his strongest public support.

Can Romney chip away at Obama's credibility when it comes to foreign policy? The Fix's Chris Cillizza discussed this topic and the latest in political news.

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Good morning everyone!

Chances of some elected official endorsing Mitt Romney during this chat: 100%

Chances of me allowing this chat to devolve into a discussion of American Idol/field hockey: 75%

Chances of this chat giving Carolyn Hax's chat a run for its money: 15%

Chances of me rooting for Kentucky to win the national championship: 0%

Ok, the odds are set. Let's chat.

Isn't the biggest story of the GOP primary the surprisingly low turnout? If I remember right, numbers are on par or slightly lower than 2008. But when you include the fact that Paul's fans are turning out in (relatively) higher numbers for him, and 3/4 of them won't vote for any other Republican, turnout is dropping. It seems that despite the primary coverage, Republicans really aren't going to have a good turnout in November.

Don't think that the turnout has actually been lower.  Make sure to read Aaron Blake -- Fix deputy! -- on that very subject.

LINK: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/post/republican-primary-turnout-rebounds-is-up-overall/2012/03/23/gIQAOeCNWS_blog.html

What are the chances that the supreme court's decision about health care is leaked to key politicians before June?

If it doesn't leak, I will stand up and applaud the Supreme Court and clerks because man oh man if the decision is made by the end of today and we don't find it out until the end of June that will be a remarkable feat in a leak-loving town like Washington.

Hello Mr. Fix! I was wondering about the Delaware primary. Since it is in the Philadelphia media market and since the Republicans picked Christine O' Donnell only 2 years ago, do you see Santorum making a play for the state come primary time?

Nope.  

Given that New Jersey is in the Philadelphia media market, do you see Santorumm making any headway in that primary if it goes till than?

Probably not.

And remember NJ is winner take all when it comes to delegates. And that makes it a big win for Romney.

If I win, I am recruiting Fix Aaron

Get in line.

Has any other post-Citizens United campaign featured candidates who agreed to keep outside money from dominating the race like in MA? Could this be a practical way around rules most people seemingly dislike?

Let's see how long the truce lasts. I am skeptical.

Not yet counting out Santorum, Gingrich or Paul, of course, but if Romney does get the GOP nomination, is Rubio really out as VP nominee? I read he said "no," but then keep seeing speculation that he'll say yes. What's your guess? Is Palin ready this time?

Oh, ignore their denial at this point.  They don't amount to anything.

All candidates say they aren't interested and won't be considered. Until they are considered and then they are interested.

I think Rubio would clearly prefer to be president (who wouldn't) but might see the vice presidency as a stepping stone to that office. 

Of course, if he is picked as the VP and the ticket loses, we might look back and say he was better off not taking it at all.

The news is saying that Romney is going to talk about foreign policy. Is this because his team sees this as an Obama weakness or because it is just something that someone running for President needs to do? This election seems all about the economy rather then foreign policy.

Little of both.

I think Romney and his team see genuine vulnerability for Obama on foreign policy. But, casting him as weak or insufficiently strong in defense of America will be a hard sell since Obama was the president that helped catch and kill Osama bin Laden.

I also think Romney sees focusing on foreign policy as a way to pivot from the nearly-over-but-not-over-yet primary to the general election.

Has President Obama been too soft on China? What about on Russia?

Oh, you must have wandered into the wrong chat.

Does it matter to the public if Romney has former Bush people advising him on foreign policy or is that a) accepted or b) too insider?

Both a and b.

I don't think who advises Romney on foreign policy is the sort of thing that the average voter pays any attention to.

Chris, what's your assessment of Obama's re-election chances if the SCOTUS throws out the individual mandate but leaves most of the rest on Obamacare intact?

Well, if the main legislative accomplishment of President Obama's first four years in office is ruled unconstitutional, I don't see how that helps his chances in the fall.

I have read lots and lots of stories arguing that a loss would energize the Democratic base. Maybe.

But wouldn't a win energize them just as much, if not more.

Mrs Fix's tenure as the head field hockey coach has proven to me one thing: There's only winning and losing. Moral victories just don't exist.

Same thing goes for politics.

Sure, I suppose Romney can chip away at Obama's foreign policy, although their differences are relatively minor. Romney would be slightly more bellicose in his approach, but the outcome's largely the same. Except Romney may spice up his foreign policy with tone-deaf jokes about reducing foreign unemployment rates as he reduces their populations.

Remember, too, that foreign policy is rarely a top-of-mind issue for voters and that goes double in an election when the economy at home continues to struggle.

The Republicans are trying their hardest to say that the president is weak on foreign policy, but has anyone asked them how it's weak to have finally fulfilled the decade-long quest of capturing and killing the man who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks? (Or is there sour grapes because the current president was able to accomplish it when the previous Republican administration couldn't?)

Right. It's a very good pushback for Obama against Republican attacks on his foreign policy credentials. No question.

Hi Chris, In big Kentucky vs. Louisville match up which coach to you dislike the least?

I was just thinking that there is almost no scenario where I would root for Rick Pitino.  This is one.

John Calipari, to me, represents everything that is wrong with college basketball and why describing it as "amateur" athletics is laughable.

Romney started effectively running for the 2012 Republican nomination about 42 seconds after John McCain conceded in November 2008. Has there ever been another candidate who started so early and didn't either drop out after Iowa/New Hampshire or quickly clear the field?

John Edwards?

Chris, if you win will you bring back FNL with all of your new found largess?

The first 3 things I would do if I won:

1. Build an on-campus arena for Gtown to play in

2. Buy a production company and re-start production of Friday Night Lights, Ed and Sale of the Century.

3. Buy a Chick-Fil-A store.

The Hax Chat got cancelled. Can we ask you questions about relationship problems?

YES!

Take that Hax! Did she blink when faced with the prsospect of me chatting an hour before her? Somehow I doubt it.

Chris, I constantly read about how good the Romney team is. They don't seem to be that good. They can't get their candidate, the front runner since he dropped out in 08 to cream a few powder puffs. They didn't have a canned, practiced defense for Romney's most glaring vulnerabilities, wealth, healthcare, abortion, climate change, wealth. And now, when everybody knows that their man's path rests on the economy, they're going to turn towards his largest weakness, which is foreign policy. Are they really this short sighted and bad?

Well, I think you may be conflating the candidate with the campaign.

Given Romney's obvious weaknesses in the GOP primary -- moderate, healthcare, Mormon, Northeast -- I think it's somewhat remarkable he has essentially won the nomination.

No?

Chris, the CW is that Romney will choose Rubio, Portman or McDonnell to be his VP. Do any of these men bring foreign policy bona fides? And what, exactly are Mr. Romney's? Does he see Canada from New Hampshire?

Clearly it's not Romney's strong suit -- which may be why he is working to bone up on it before the general election starts in earnest.

Out of the three names you mentioned -- and I think they, along with Bobby Jindal, are the top tier -- Portman probably has the most foreign policy experience although he is far from deeply experienced on those issues.

Carolyn's chat was cancelled for today. I think she's on vacation. Be careful of that car guy, though!

Between the car guy and the DC squirrel I need to have eyes in the back of my head.

Which will be better party town, Tampa or Charlotte?

HMMMM.

I don't know? What say you loyal Fix chatters? Which city will be more fun when the Fix carnival arrives in town this summer?

What is the truest answer to the question of what will happen to President Obama's re-election effort if the ACA is struck down by the SCOTUS?

It will take a hit. How big or small remains to be seen.

STILL, this election is about the economy first, second and third.  Health care matters to the bases of the two parties. I don't think it's a top of mind issue for indies.

Wouldn't you enjoy watching Kentucky give back the trophy and take down the banner after the investigation is complete? Almost worth watching them win in the first place.

Kind of like when Calipari's UMASS team knocked Gtown out of the Final 4? And then had to vacate that appearance?

Losing as part of the ticket would make him presumptive favorite in crowded field next time - Republicans like to nominate next guy up/guy who lost last time. Plus, he'd be able to join Romney's national political machine to his own Tea Party base - an impressive prospect, to be sure.

Maybe.

But the history of losing VP nominees isn't great. Edwards (04), Kemp (1996), Lieberman (2000) and, yes, someone named Sarah Palin in 2008.

Do you think that after Romney has gone so right with the issues that effect Hispanics, could possibly gain their support? I know I would never vote for him. I am a Independent voter. Thank you

It's clearly a problem for him in the general election. He took a hardline stance on immigration issues to get to the right of Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich at a time when both of those men seemed to pose a legitimate threat to his chances of being the nominee.

People like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have warned the party of the danger of going too far to the right on immigration. My bet is that Romney sometime soon tries to find a way to start moving to the middle on the issue.

If the law is overturned, is there additional pressure on the GOP to provide an alternative?

Yes.

Dan Balz -- the Post's senior political correspondent -- wrote a terrific piece on just that subject yesterday.

It's here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/on-health-care-is-the-gop-ready-for-victory/2012/03/29/gIQANTm3iS_story.html

It appears that in the last few days, Romney is moving even farther to the right (get rid of Planned Parenthood, endorsing the Ryan Budget, etc), how does he plan on trying to get back more towards the center, or does he just stay far right. If he stays far right, I could almost see a double digit Obama victory (assuming things stay as they are now).

I cannot see a souble digit Obama victory. It's simply not possible in the current electoral environment we live in. 

Remember that Obama cruised to victory in 2008 (365 electoral votes) and he still didn't win by a double-digit margin in the popular vote.

Romney may not look strong right now. But I guarantee you that once the general election begins in earnest, there will be a re-examination of his candidacy that works in his favor. His stock is just too low right now. The political market always moves to equilibrium.

How excited are you for a 2nd Ron Burgandy movie?

Um, VERY excited.

 

Horsemen this weekend, so pumped.

HUGE! Also, Hogan vs Andre the Giant at Silverdome in Wrestlemania III was 25 years ago this week. Best Wrestlemania ever.

Rehberg voted no again and Mack didn't bother to show up. Any blowback from conservatives?

I doubt it. Remember that the Ryan budget passed the House. If it had failed, maybe the Rehbergs and Macks of the world might have been criticized.

So Chris, when can we expect an endorsement of Romney from, uh, that guy who was the last Republican president? You know, Bosh, Borscht, Bash, Biff, something like that.....

No going to happen. Or at least not for a while. Romney -- and the rest of the Republican field -- NEVER talk about George W. It's remarkable.

Mid-30s, always been shy, trying to find someone who's as much of a politics dork as I am. Surprisingly, Politics and Pints has not helped. What ya got?

HMMMM.

I say break out. Try to meet someone who isn't into politics at all. How you do that? Oh, I have no idea.

Take that Hax!

Is Romney picking Rubio for VP like Mondale picking Geraldine Ferraro for VP. An attempt to win a segment of the population only and not really about Rubio's skills or abilities? Sorta like John McCain too.

I don't think so.

Rubio is a pretty good candidate in his own right...quick on his feet, young, handsome etc.

He's not had a full vetting at the national level but in every other way he seems like he has the goods.

So when he tries to highlight foreign policy issues, and what he says are failures of Obama- doesn't Obama just hold up a mirror and say "and what exactly have you done?"

A mirror would be an awesome prop in a debate. Not as good as a steel chair -- for bashing opponent upside the head -- but still good.

When I first typed this comment's subject line I made a typo and wrote "Rmoney" which is actually an awesome nickname for Mitt. On foreign policy, does it ultimately matter, one way or the other, that Romney's already getting smacked down by the Russians?

The nickname "R-money" could definitely catch on. Also, Mittens.

It seems that Newt Gingrich's ego is tripping up his common sense, and is staying in the race. How likely do you think it is that he remains in the race all the way to the convention? My gut feeling is that he'll actually do it, because Newt wouldn't be Newt without staying in.

Who knows?

Also, more importantly, who cares?

The New Yorker has run a couple of stories recently about the President's power to persuade. Far from being a "bully pulpit" as it was once described, they opined that the nation is so polarized that the Chief Executive's powers to persuade the public, much less the hostile Congress, have deteriorated considerably in recent years. Romney lack Obama's speaking gifts, so how would he fare in attempting to move the nation and the legislators to adopt his policies?

Agree 100%.

I also think the fracturing of the media and splintering of how people consume their news makes it MUCh harder to drive a single message to any large percentage of the American population.

What are the odds that Wisconsin voters recall Scott Walker?

50-50.

It's going to close, nasty and VERY expensive.

What are the chance that former Governor wins and then partners with the GOP in a nearly evenly divided Senate? Does the GOP have a shot at retaining the Maine seat? Who is the best GOP candidate to do so?

I think it's very unlikely that King caucuses with Republicans. I know he has said he is leaving his options open but the fact that national Democrats aren't doing much to recruit anyone serious to run against him is telling.

What happened to the Fix Teams?

It's coming...this afternoon. Fix Aaron is compiling the nominations as I type!

Will you be watching Game of Thrones on Sunday?

DVR-ing.

Mrs Fix and I are going to see Springsteen. SO PSYCHED.

Late 30s, looking for likeminded. When are you scheduling one, and will this one be Singles Edition Politics and Pints?

Holy cow. A singles edition of Politics and Pints would rule.  Of course, it would by 99% dudes...

For the regular edition of Politics and Pints: Next one is April 9 (a week from Monday).  7 pm. Capitol Lounge.

How long until Santorum drops out or "suspends" his campaign? Seems like the handwriting is increasingly on the wall ... or does he soldier on and scorch the earth?

Either:

a) If he loses Wisconsin by double digits on Tuesday

b) If he loses Pennsylvania (april 24)

Again though, it doesn't make much difference. Romney is going to be the nominee. All that Santorum is doing now is figuring out what his legacy in the race is and how/whether he preserves some political capital for 2016.

Just saw this quote on Politico re: O'Malley and Springsteen- "This guy has been the soundtrack of my life," said the 49-year-old O'Malley I guess that means O'Malley was "Born to Run" for President in '16? (see how I did that?)

If O'Malley doesn't run for president in 2016, I would be SHOCKED.

He's been "working on a dream" for a long time now.

See what I did there?

I hope Santorum and Gringrich stay in as long as possible, because I think it's a good to get conservative jillionaires to throw as much of their money down a well as possible.

Is jillionaire a technical term?

I just saw the Simpson's episode at Rock Camp with Jagger, Kravitz, Richards, Petty and Costello and ran the option to listen to commentary during the episode. It was hilarious, I almost called you to recommend it. Almost. I knew you would be busy. Seriously, now that Ohio is rid of Dennis, what do you think is the probability that the Buckeyes export him to their fine state?

GREAT episode!

No. Let's talk about Bruce instead. He played "Seaside Bar Song" in Philly the other night!

I am SO pysyched for the show on Sunday. Beyond excited.  I am already warming up my "Bruuuuuuuuuuuce" yell.

What would you do if....you win the lottery? I would donate it all to one of Obama's PACs. I've figured out that in the last election, for those that contributed. They received for every $1,000 donated, at least a million in return. (in govt. contracts, awards, grants, unsecured loans that you can default on with no recorse, etc...) What do you think?

I think that several of the "sentences" above do not fit the legal definition of sentence.

Are you lucky enough to have tickets for the Boss on Sunday at Verizon Center?

I am!

Who wouldn't rather be President than Vice President? Cheney.

Good one.

If the ACA is thrown out by the Supreme Court, obviously the President can't develop another plan in an election year. If re-elected, and no election to worry about 4 years later, do you think the Obama administration would boldly back a single payer solution?

Um, no.

If the health care law is struck down, the prospects of another major bill anytime in the near future is some number less than zero (Bret Easton Ellis reference!)

Any chance the results of the Supremes private healthcare vote today will be leaked to the press?

A boy can dream....

There are only two men who lost election as VP and went on to win his party's presidential nomination in a subsequent year: (1) Robert J. Dole (lost as VP in 1976, won nomination in 1996), (2) Franklin D. Roosevelt (lost as VP in 1920, won nomination in 1932). If I'm Rubio, I do not want that nomination. I would take my chances on giving myself a better shot at running for the top spot in 2016 or 2020. Otherwise, I'd probably have to run for Senate and build a record there and take a stab in 2028.

This smells to me like a Fix column. Thanks for the history!

What the youngest child you'd recommend to see it? My wife and I were debating whether to take our daughter who's moving up to middle school next year (which is 5th grade in my district)

I haven't seen it yet so not in a place to say.

I do think bullying gets started at a younger and younger age these days, so probably it would be ok to take a 5th grader.

Is the Obama ground game up to the task of re-electing him in the individual States?

Well, we shall see won't we?

One thing I would say: even the best organizations don't work unless there is some genuine passion/excitement surrounding a candidate. You can't generate organic energy.

Calm down. Everyone in the audience will look like old baby boomers. It will be disappointing.

Then I will feel young. And that's always a good thing.  

I grew up in Memphis. What a guy (aka tool)......

Offered without comment.

My guess as a lawyer is that the SCOTUS invalidates the individual mandate and remands one or more of the individual proceedings back to the district court for a severability review, thus allowing both Obama and Romney to claim partial victory.

Interesting.

Although I woul argue that invalidating the individual mandate would be a major boon to the GOP forces no matter what the Justices do with the rest of the law.

Obama has plenty to point to as foriegn policy successes. I just don't think it is a smart movr for Romney. He is a buisnessman who will win or lose the election on the economy.

Agree.

But he also has to show a basic proficiency on foreign policy matters too. I don't think Romney wins the election on foreign policy but if he can't prove to undecided voters that he would be a steady hand on the tiller of state (bad metaphor alert!) then it might be hard for him to win.

Why can't the Democrats and Republicans go for winner takes all primaries intsead of this nighmarish proportional disribution of delegates?

Two words: Michael Steele.

The former RNC Chairman pushed through the proportional delegate thing after the 2008 race.

Why are reporters with no legal background asked to predict how the SCOTUS will decide ACA when even legal scholars can't come to a consensus?

Because we all fashion ourselves to be amateur handicappers of all things.

For example, odds that Jessica Sanchez edges Phil Phillips for the Idol crown: 2-5.

Who ya' got?

Anyone but Tiger.

Given that he has had a change of heart, what are the odds that Dick Cheney will be tapped as VP nominee?

I see what you did there.

And, no.

The fact that the recall election is in June - does it work in Walker's favor or disadvantage?

Who knows?

We are in uncharted electoral territory here. I think that this recall election is going to be VERY close no matter when it was ultimately scheduled.

What happened to Fix Teams? Where's the follow through, Cillizza?

I am nothing but follow through!

Fix Aaron will have them for you later today.

And, in case you have no idea what we are talking about, check this out: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/post/which-sports-team-is-most-like-mitt-romney-president-obama/2012/03/27/gIQAkUzGgS_blog.html

That's all for today folks! Thanks for joining me. And I'll be back next Friday. Same time. Same place. Same hilarity.

In This Chat
Chris Cillizza
Chris Cillizza is the managing editor of PostPolitics and he writes "The Fix," a politics blog for The Washington Post. He also covers the White House for the newspaper and website. Chris has appeared as a guest on NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and CNN to talk politics. He lives in Virginia with his wife and son.
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