In the Arena

Obama Trip Overload

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Lots of speculation on the web, and in whispering circles, about why Obama’s foreign trip–a slam-dunk success substantively and in photo-op terms (Obama laughing with Petraeus in the helicopter was the best)–hasn’t resulted in a polling bump. The emerging conventional wisdom seems to be that the trip is a bit too grand, too…presumptuous and voters are wary of that. (And presumption, of course, always comes with the subterranean tinge of racism.) Maybe so.

But I have another theory. People may be thinking, what on earth is Obama doing over there when we have so many problems back home? Why isn’t he talking about the economy? No doubt, the Obama staff figured they needed this week abroad to establish the image of Obama as a potential Commander-in-Chief…and, no doubt, he will turn to the economy–a Democratic strength, according to the polls–when he gets home. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama is paying a price for vamping about overseas while banks are cratering, gas prices soar and people are getting really, really nervous about their futures.

Note to Commenters: Calm down! The effects of this trip will be felt, one way or another, in the fullness of time. My guess is that it will work to Obama’s advantage. I suspect that Obama will pivot quickly to the economy when he comes home–and keep a sharp focus on it throughout the fall. Indeed, the past two weeks of emphasis on foreign policy issues–starting with Obama’s major speech last week–have turned out far better than the Obama camp expected and, as McCain’s frustration shows, have gone a long way toward establishing Obama’s credentials as a potential commander in chief. But there is a moment of doubt right now, based on the lack of movement in the nightly Gallup and Rasmussen polls (whatever you think of those)…and I was simply trying to respond to conversations I’ve seen online.