At some point in the next few days, Barack Obama will touch down in a foreign country to start an overseas trip, accompanied by a larger press corps, senior political correspondents and network television anchors.
ABC News' Jake Tapper reports that Obama senior advisers spoke to reporters today to answer questions about the senator's pending visit to Jordan, Israel, Germany, France and the UK. (There was no talk of any stops in Iraq or Afghanistan, Tapper notes.)
So why is Obama going?
"To deepen -- even further -- important relationships," said Dr. Susan Rice, a top foreign policy adviser to Obama. "To exchange views with leaders whose partnerships with the US are critical…To explore opportunities for enhanced cooperation on a range of issues, such as non-proliferation, counterterrorism, energy security and climate change, and a range of regional security issues….To explore concretely opportunities for cooperation between the US and our European and Mideast allies."
A few other key reasons Obama will step off the campaign trail and hit up these countries that have no Electoral Votes? Look no further than the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll released this week.
From ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer:
-- Seventy-two percent of Americans -- even most Democrats -- say John McCain would be a good commander-in-chief of the military. By contrast, fewer than half, 48 percent, say Obama would be a good commander-in-chief, a significant weakness on this measure.
-- Americans by a wide margin, 63-26 percent, pick McCain as more knowledgeable on world affairs, rate him much more highly in terms of readiness for the world stage and military leadership alike, and put him ahead of Obama by 50-41 percent in trust to handle "an unexpected major crisis."
This trip is critical for Obama in order to show he can be commander-in-chief and can offer a fresh perspective on American diplomacy. His campaign is quick to say that he is not traveling abroad and meeting with world leaders to make new American foreign policy or negotiate policy but those photo ops can go a long way in helping Obama address the weaknesses that are showing up in polling (and stressed by the McCain campaign and Republican Party every chance they get).
Expect the McCain campaign and GOP to continue its message that the trip is purely political. They will continue their talking point barrage that Obama has made up his mind on his Iraq and Afghanistan policies before talking to commanders on the ground there. Of course the Obama campaign disputes both points (and in fact, so did John McCain yesterday, at least on the former, until he got back on message).
"That's not what we're doing," senior Obama adviser Robert Gibbs said, per Tapper. "The speech in Berlin will be a substantive speech about American and European relations. This trip is not at all a political trip. Or a rally of any sort. It is a series of substantive meetings with our friends and our allies to talk about the challenges we face and the national security demands for the 21st century."
Obama has a lot of photo ops in store for him after his meetings with over a half dozen foreign leaders. Who will Obama meet with?
-- Jordan's King Abdullah