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Ed Luce Praises Fleet Street and Disses Mitt Romney

Ed Luce:

Why the UK was right on Romney: The Washington commentariat is fond of disparaging Fleet Street…. But the UK media has a reasonable track record at detecting bluff….

Mr Romney’s awfulness as a candidate. It has nothing to do with insight: the UK media are only stating bluntly what is on everyone’s minds…. Six long years after he first emerged as presidential candidate, time is fast slipping away for Mr Romney to define himself favourably. At a moment when the US debate should be dominated by a weakening economy, Barack Obama’s campaign keeps shifting attention back to Mr Romney’s mangled biography. When the president needs a day off, Mr Romney is usually happy to step in his shoes.

Last Friday, US growth was reported at 1.5 per cent for the second quarter, well below the first quarter’s 2 per cent. Happily for the White House the latest bad numbers coincided with Mr Romney’s less than stellar London visit. It follows weeks of focus on Mr Romney’s reluctance to talk frankly about his past at Bain Capital (let alone turn that experience to his advantage), or to release more than two years of his tax returns.

Since he has not yet addressed either of those issues – and may never do so – they promise to drive many more news cycles yet….

The fact that Mr Obama is still favourite, if only by a whisker, offers an extraordinary rebuke to Mr Romney’s campaigning skills. Which brings us back to the Olympics. The first rule of foreign trips is that the candidate must avoid offending his hosts. Mr Romney did so before his aeroplane even left the tarmac. To become the butt of Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s humour only a few hours after having touched down takes some doing. And it contrasts strikingly with Mr Obama’s whirlwind Europe trip in 2008. The fact that within 24 hours Mr Romney went from describing himself as “disconcerted” with London’s preparations to being “very delighted” also drew attention to his best known flaw – a tendency to say one thing then contradict it soon afterwards with the same robotic certainty….

The next month will be make or break. First, Mr Romney will select a running-mate. It is possible he could make a bold choice, such as Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, or Kelly Ayotte, the New Hampshire senator…. Then there is his convention in Tampa, Florida…. [After] Tampa… there is only the debates to go. And as his Olympic performances in London showed, Mr Romney is hardly quick on his feet.