ABC’s Emily Friedman reports from the trail in London, with input from Meghan Kiesel and Jilian Fama out of D.C.:
A Travelogue to accompany Mitt Romney’s international adventure. Read the itinerary here.
7/27/12 – London Day 3 – Damage Control and Opening Ceremonies
No Love from Americans – 4:43 p.m. GST (11:43 a.m. EST) - #romneyshambles is trending on Twitter, and it’s partly Americans that are to blame. Former U.S. sprinter and gold medal winner Carl Lewis slammed Romney to British media outlet The Independent, saying, “some Americans shouldn’t leave the country … stay home if you don’t know what to say.”
Romney’s Forced to Hoof It – 3:16 p.m. GST (10:16 a.m. EST) London traffic is so snarled here that Romney was forced to ditch his motorcade and walk from his hotel to the Irish Embassy, where he is scheduled to meet Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny shortly.
Kenny asked Romney about his walk during the meeting, asking, “So you had to walk from the hotel?”
“Not bad at all,” Romney said of the adventure. “I enjoyed the walk. I guess you also had to walk.”
“Yes, we’re used to walking in Ireland,” said Kenny.
“I guess we didn’t have to walk,” Romney added. “It’s enjoyable to walk. It’s a beautiful day.”
Romney’s family also appeared to get caught up in London traffic, Romney’s eldest son Tagg tweeted a photo of his brother Craig, mom Ann and wife Jen stuck in London gridlock. He noted, “But the cabs here are so cool.”
On the plus side, maybe Romney isn’t as infamous as it seems. One man ran over to members of the press afterward to boast that he got a great photo of the man who had just crossed the street. Thing is, he asked us to identify him. Maybe the British press isn’t reaching everyone after all.
“Mitt the Twit” – 1:51 p.m. GST (8:51 a.m. EST) After two days filled with gaffes, the British press seems to have had enough of Mitt Romney, despite a second NBC interview in which the GOP candidate expressed confidence in London’s ability to put on a successful games.
The Sun ran a cover this morning rechristening Romney as “Mitt the Twit,” and even U.S. politicians are decrying Romney’s international performance - Sen. Harry Reid said it’s “not good for us as a country” to have somebody that is “nominated by one of the political parties to go over and insult everybody.” Read more about that here
With the Opening Ceremonies starting in London in a matter of hours, let’s hope for Romney’s sake that the pomp and circumstance is enough to distract from a less-than-favorable first impression.
7/26/12 – London Day 2 - Olympics Oops – Romney Jabbed by British PM, Blasted by London Mayor
Partying with the Olympians – 10:42 p.m. GST (5:42 p.m. EST) Per Romney’s body guy Garrett Jackson, Romney went to the US Olympic Committee Gala this evening after the fundraiser here in London.
@dgjackson: Just went to the USA House for the US Olympic Committee Gala. Great times. #teamusa http://t.co/zNY3SvJT
London Call-Out – London Mayor Boris Johnson invokes Mitt Romney to say London is ready for the games.
“I hear there’s a guy, there’s a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we’re ready – he wants to know whether we’re ready. Are we ready? Are we ready? Yes we are!” he yelled to a screaming crowd of 60,000.
PM David Cameron Responds to Romney’s Doubts About the Olympic Games- 5:28 p.m. GST (12:28 p.m. EST) Yesterday in an NBC interview regarding the challenges that London would face in hosting the 2012 Olympics, Romney played up the pending problems which face preparations for the 2012 Games. Here, he suggested that the Brits would have difficulty.
“Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment? That’s something which we only find out once the Games actually begin,” he said.
“It’s hard to know just how well it will turn out. There are a few things that were disconcerting… The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and Customs officials – that obviously is not something which is encouraging.”
In response to Romney’s doubt, PM Cameron defended London’s abilities saying, “This is a time of some economic difficulty for the UK but look at what we are capable of achieving as nation even at a difficult economic time.
“This is not a London games, this is not an England games, this a United Kingdom Games” he continues.
“I think we will show the whole world not just that we come together as a United Kingdom but also we’re extremely good at welcoming people from across the world.”
He added: “I will obviously make those points to Mitt Romney. I look forward to meeting him.”
Did Romney Accidentally Share Some British Secrets? – 4:50 p.m. GST (11:50 EST): A writer for the British newspaper The Guardian tweets after Romney emerged from 10 Downing Street he said that he met with the head of MI-6, the British intelligence agency. Apparently that’s a no-no, according to the Guardian, since the position itself is supposed to be secret. A horribly kept secret. The Telegraph paper suggests it’s just not “convention” to discuss MI-6.
“For our American readership, this isn’t like bragging you just met David Petraeus. The British take on the national secret intelligence service comes with an extra-heavy dollop of the whole secret thing. The very existence of the MI6 was not officially acknowledged until 1994,” according to The Guardian.
Romney has been critical of leaks of classified information at President Obama’s White House. Romney says these leaks, on a number of subjects, including secret efforts against Syria and Iran, are a dire national security issue. They are currently under investigation by the Justice Department. But Romney has called for a special prosecutor to look into them.
“What kind of White House would reveal classified material for political gain? I’ll tell you right now: Mine won’t,” he declared in Reno earlier this week.
Romney Just Misses Beckham; A Busy Day at 10 Downing – 3:43 p.m. GST (10:43 a.m. EST): ABC’s Michael Falcone tweets: Tough act to follow? David Beckham just misses Romney at 10 Downing St. Beckham is holding a plaque that was given to him in response to a letter that he gave to the Prime Minister. The letter was signed by over 50 prominent UNICEF supporters asking the PM to act now to put an end to child hunger and stunting.
David Beckham, midfielder for the LA Galaxy, visited the White House in May and just this week mailed President Obama a box of his own H&M brand underwear. No reports yet on whether the soccer star tossed Romney a pair of underwear on his way in.
Rafalca Fever? Not Quite – 2:30 p.m. GST (9:30 a.m. EST) - Mitt Romney said he’s most looking forward to the Olympic swimming events.
“Americans usually do well in swimming,” he told the British Prime Minister.
That’s an opinion Romney seems to share with a majority of Americans. They are favorably anticipating the Olympics in general, and the swimming competition in particular.
But Rafalca fever hasn’t exactly gripped the nation.
Seventy-two percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll express a favorable opinion of the upcoming London Olympics overall, and 79 percent see the swimming competition favorably. Far fewer, 47 percent, hold a positive view of the horse-riding competition called dressage, in which a horse co-owned by Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, is competing. Read more about that here
In an interview given to NBC News, Romney spoke of the experience of being in the Olympics with the disengaged tone and shrug of a husband who doesn’t “get” his wife’s hobby.
“It’s a big, exciting experience for my wife. I have to tell you. This is Ann’s sport. I’m not even sure which day the sport goes on. She will get the chance to see it, I will not– be– watching– the event. I hope– her horse does well. But just the honor of being here and representing our country and– seeing the other Olympians is– is something which I’m sure the people– that are associated with this are looking forward to.”
Here’s a file photo of Ann’s Olympic horse:
This photo was taken with Ann Romney and officials at an awards ceremony during the National Grand Prix Dressage Championship at the United States Equestrian Federation Festival of Champions in Gladstone, NJ, June 16, 2012.
Some Clarity on Kit Kats and U.S. Olympic Swimming – 2:15 p.m. GST (9:15 a.m. EST) – Kit Kats were created in York, England by a company called Rowntree’s. They’re produced by Nestle except for in the US, where Hershey has the license.
In the 2008 Beijing Games, swimming did win the most total medals (31) and most golds (12), significantly ahead of the second most winning team, track and field, which brought home 23 medals. Swimming’s medals counted for approximately 28 percent of the U.S.’s 110 medals in Beijing. The potential for medal counts in swimming is high – between the men and the women, there are 102 possible medals – but the number is even higher for track and field. Athletes in that sport have a shot at 141 medals.
Here’s a partial breakdown by sport from the Beijing Olympics:
31 total in swimming (12 gold, 9 silver, 10 bronze)
23 total in track and field (7 gold, 9 silver, 7 gold)
10 total in gymnastics (2 gold, 6 silver, 2 bronze)
5 total in cycling (1 gold, 1 silver, 3 bronze)
2 golds from basketball
2 golds from beach volleyball
2 total in tennis (1 gold, 1 bronze)
2 in volleyball (1 gold, 1 silver)
1 bronze in boxing
1 gold in soccer
1 silver in softball
Important Matters of State and Kit Kats – 1:31 p.m. GST (8:31 a.m EST) - A campaign aide provides a readout on background of the meeting with Foreign Secretary Hague: the Governor’s discussion with Foreign Secretary William Hague was broad and wide ranging. They discussed the economic challenges facing Europe and the importance of free trade.
Additionally they discussed Syria, Egypt, the Arab Spring and the spirit of peaceful competition that characterizes the Olympic games.
Also worth noting, they both discussed their mutual love of Kit Kat bars (which, yes, are called Kit Kat bars in both the U.K. and the U.S.).
An Appointment at #10 – 1:24 p.m. GST (8:24 a.m. EST) – Romney arrived at 1pm local time at Downing Street – walking in 10 Downing to meet with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
He waved to the press who kept screaming “Sir! Sir! Sir!” prompting Romney to stop on the doorstep, wave and say “good morning.”
Romney was joined by Jeremy Brown, the Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The Chancellor’s cat, Frida, lingered outside the building.
Romney discussed the Olympics with Clegg, noting that he planned to watch swimming because “Americans typically do well in swimming.”
Romney will meet with PM David Cameron shortly.
Awaiting the Romney Boys – 12:54 p.m. GST (7:54 a.m. EST) – A Romney campaign aide said three of the Romney sons are arriving in London today to join their parents – Tagg, Josh and Craig.
Romney began his third visit of the day with Foreign Secretary William Hague at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Here is how a pool reporter described the visit:
Hague gave Romney a tour of the Great Pavilion exhibit inside Durbur Court, a spectacular three-storied marble atrium with a modern glass ceiling. The exhibit featured huge color banners promoting Great Britain’s culture, innovation, sport, technology and knowledge. There was a giant red, white and blue carpet on the floor that said THIS IS GREAT BRITAIN.
Hague and Romney stopped at each display featuring a replica or item of particular significance to Great Britain. Hague walked in with Romney and Romney looked up at the ceiling, then turned to the exhibits. Your pool could not hear much of what they were saying, and British authorities banned the use of any recording devices.
“This is what is great about Great Britain,” Hague told Romney.
As the two men tried to cross the room, the press corps was standing in the way and Hague said, “Let’s go through the media now.”
“They usually don’t hurt us if we go through,” Romney told Hague, joking.
Unfriendly Morning Papers – 12:49 p.m. GST (7:49 a.m. EST) – An article in the Times of London seizes on Romney’s remarks to NBC last night that there were some things about the Olympic games that were “disconcerting.”
The Brits also don’t love Romney’s stump speech line that the economy has two paths to take – one toward Europe and one toward American prosperity. The paper calls it an attack on Europe by Romney. Here’s the portion of what Romney said on NBC last night that the paper printed:
“You know, it’s hard to know just how well it were turn out– will turn out. There are a few things that were disconcerting, the stories about the– private security firm not having enough people– the sup– supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging. Because in the games, there– there are three parts that makes games successful.”
Oppositions Attract – 10:52 a.m. GST (5:52 a.m EST) – Romney, who as presumptive GOP nominee is sort of like the head of the American political opposition, also met this morning with Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband, head of the British opposition party.
Miliband took two questions, from British press only, and although Romney answered both questions to British reporters he did not call upon any U.S. reporters to ask questions.
Romney press secretary Andrea Saul said Miliband took questions because, “That was his choice.” Asked why Romney did not call on U.S. reporters for questions, Saul told your pooler, “We said we were doing a photo spray.”
But Romney was careful to to directly criticize President Obama when he took some questions from journalists.
“While I’m on foreign soil, I’m very careful not to be critical of my own government’s policies. I would be even more remiss if I were to be critical to any other government’s policies. I will instead look forward to an exchange of ideas.”
He also weighed in on the recent Olympics security concerns:
“My experience with regards to the Olympics is it is impossible for absolutely no mistakes to occur. Of course there will be errors from time to time, but those are all overshadowed by the extraordinary demonstrations of courage, character and determination by the athletes. The Games are, after all, about the athletes, the volunteers and the people of the community that come together to celebrate those athletes. They are not about the Organizing Committee. And as soon as the sporting events begin, we all forget the organizers and focus on the athletes.”
A Brief Conversation Between Mitt Romney and Tony Blair – 9:28 a.m GST (4:28 a.m. EST) – According to a pool report:
Romney: “And any favorite sporting events that you look forward to attending or not really?”
Blair said the British have become “very focused on cycling” after a Brit won the Tour de France last weekend.
Of his own Olympic schedule, Romney said “I’m looking forward to the chance to see at least one event. I’m hoping to see at least one swimming event. And my wife has a horse competing in the equestrian events, in dressage. Her horse was chosen number three of all US horses, so she’s very pleased to be a part of that.”
Rafalca Off Limits - The United States Equestrian Federation and the United States Olympic Committee have refused to allow those working with Rafalca available for interviews in the days leading up to the Olympic Games. News media is prohibited the from even seeing the horse.
Good Morning, London – 8:48 a.m. GST (3:48 a.m. EST) - Mitt and Ann Romney stepped out of their Hyde Park hotel last night in London to go to dinner at The Wolesley restaurant, an aide confirmed.
The restaurant, on Piccadilly, was originally designed to be a car show room for Wolesley Motors Limited, high-end cars placed on show on a marble flooring. Romney, as he notes on the trail, is an avid car fan.
But the showroom went bankrupt shortly after opening, according to the restaurant website, and was taken over by Barclays Bank which turned it into a branch. It was eventually transformed into a restaurant in 2003.
Bob Diamond, the former Barclays CEO who resigned in scandal earlier this month, had planned to co-host a fundraiser for Romney during his trip to the U.K. The fundraiser will go on without Diamond, and is still likely to draw contributions from Barclays’ executives, many of whom have already donated to Romney’s campaign.
7/25/12 – London, England and Anglo Saxon Heritage (Friedman)
6:30 p.m. GST (1:30 p.m. EST) LONDON – Just before 6 p.m. local time in London, Mitt Romney ventured out of his Hyde Park hotel to head over to the Tower of London for an interview.
His body man tweeted along the way a photo of the presidential candidate looking out the window and toward the British Parliament buildings, which are on the way.
When the motorcade arrived at the Tower of London — which is adjacent to the Tower of London bridge that is currently decorated with the Olympic ring logo — Romney’s senior policy advisor Lanhee Chen took a photo of their afternoon snacks — an assortment of potato chips.
Or, as the Brits call them, “crisps.”
5:19 p.m. GST (12:19 p.m. EST) A campaign sticker for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is seen on a street sign for Romney Street in London, on Wednesday, July 25.
4:21 p.m. GST (11:21 a.m. EST) LONDON – Pictured is the view of Hyde Park from Romney’s hotel. If you wanted this view from your hotel room, a suite with private balcony overlooking the park would run you about 879 pounds or $1,363 per night. Comparatively, a standard room with a queen bed is only $401 a night.
3:24 p.m. GST (10:24 a.m. EST) LONDON — Romney is preparing to attend the Opening Ceremonies of the London games later this week. A major selling point of Romney’s campaign is his stewardship of the 2001 Salt Lake City Olympics. Read more about that here
2:30 p.m. GST (9:30 a.m. EST) Romney landed in London Wednesday morning at around 10:30am, an arrival that was not advertised to the press. He is staying at the luxurious Park Lane Hilton located on 22 Park Lane in London.
The hotel was awarded ”UK Best Business Hotel 2011″ for the 5th time, by Business Traveller Magazine and was called ”England’s leading business hotel 2009″ by World Travel Awards Europe.
According to its website, the Park Lane Hilton boasts, “stunning views of London from all guest rooms, the only hotel in London to offer this, the London Hilton on Park Lane is famed for its unparalleled five star luxury and prestigious location on Park Lane.”
The presidential candidate was treated to an uncharacteristically warm London – it is above 80 degrees here.
Romney’s trusted body guy, Garrett Jackson, tweeted: “We are wheels down in London. Excited to be here to cheer on Team USA.”
The Romney motorcade then weaved through the streets of London – already clogged with pre-Olympic traffic – to the hotel, where other members of the International Olympic Committee are staying.
Romney’s car pulled into an underground area where the candidate stepped out and put on his jacket. His wife Ann, already in the Olympic spirit, emerged from the car wearing a Navy USA jacket with an American flag patch on her arm.
Despite promises that the Romney campaign would not disparage President Obama abroad, two Romney advisers said in an interview with the London Telegraph. ”We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he [Romney] feels that the special relationship is special,” an adviser told the British paper. “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.” Read more about that here.