The Basics of an International Trip

The fundamentals that prevail when a presidential candidate goes overseas:

  • The media will look for and make a gaffe/flap the news of the day unless you give them something big and interesting to cover instead.
  • The candidate and the senior traveling staff should constantly interact with the press corps, in order to keep them sated and in order to know what they are thinking.
  • Coordinating between the traveling campaign roadshow and the headquarters is an even bigger challenge than usual. The time zone differences are complicating and both parts of the enterprise often think the other part is handling something urgent.
  • Everyone – the media, the opposition political parties at home and abroad – will be probing for weakness.
  • US elites will pay closer attention to the trip than the public at large, and/but elites will read a lot into how the trip is covered – sharing the media’s implicit frame: if you can’t execute an international trip, how can you run the country?
  • The candidate should never play political or, uhm, cultural analyst.
  • Context and timing matter: the same thing said in a book or domestic interview or speech can come across much differently in a particular local forum.
  • Make sure to monitor the coverage the trip gets on local TV news in battleground state markets – and adjust/intervene if there’s a problem.
  • The old domestic politics rule applies: Good gets better and bad gets worse.
  • Be aware that the traveling press is reading and watching the local media in whatever country you are in – and will often key off of that.
  • If your party doesn’t control the White House, don’t expect a lot of help from the State Department bureaucracy.
  • If you don’t have a super close relationship with the congressional wing of your party, don’t expect a lot of backup from your colleagues if the trip goes bad.
Related Topics: Mark Halperin, Mitt Romney, overseas trip, 2012 Elections, News, Republican Party, The Page

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