July 31, 2012 -- In all three countries Mitt Romney has visited on his week-long foreign trip, either the candidate or his campaign have managed to step in it.
Romney's journey to Great Britain, Israel and Poland should have been a clean kill for the presumptive Republican nominee, but instead, at almost every stop, it turned messy.
In Warsaw this morning -- the final stop for Romney before returning to the United States -- a campaign spokesman told reporters to "shove it" as they shouted questions at the candidate.
"Governor Romney, are you concerned about some of the mishaps of your trip?" asked a CNN reporter. "What about your gaffes?" a Washington Post journalist chimed in.
The campaign's traveling press secretary, Rick Gorka, shot back, "Kiss my a**. This is a holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect."
(Romney was visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw and reporters took the opportunity to pose questions to the candidate who has held only one media availability over the last week. He took three questions after a meeting at 10 Downing Street in London on Thursday. Romney has also sat for several television interviews during his trip, including one with ABC News.)
Gorka later apologized to several members of the press corps for his remarks.
But who can forget how even before Romney touched down on foreign soil, a campaign adviser, in an interview with a British paper, had already sparked controversy by suggesting that President Obama did not fully appreciate the U.S. and England's shared "Anglo-Saxon" heritage?
Or, how on the eve of the opening of the Summer Olympics, a chance for Romney to showcase his success running the 2002 Salt Lake City games was overshadowed by his comment that some of London's preparations were "disconcerting" -- an assessment that insulted his British hosts.
In Israel, the campaign was not only forced to walk back a top foreign policy adviser's statement that Romney would "respect" Israeli military action to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, it also was left grappling with an outcry from Palestinian officials over Romney's view of the role that "culture" plays in the economic disparities between Israelis and Palestinians.
After today's tensions between the campaign and the press in Poland, Romney strategist Stuart Stevens pointed out that the purpose of the trip was not to "give a town hall."
"Look, there's no electoral college here," he said.
And he's right. Voters in swing states aren't likely to care much about Romney's missteps thousands of miles away, but it's clear that when Romney returns to America, he's going to need to change the subject -- and fast.
SPEAKING OF CHANGING THE SUBJECT... Political wise-man Charlie Cook writes in a column for National Journal today that "Romney has a chance to hit the reset button with his vice presidential pick. It's not that his choice itself is likely to make that much difference, unless it's a bad one, but it is likely to begin a new and different narrative, shifting the focus away from his finances and his critical review of the United Kingdom's handling of preparations for the London Olympics, and that's probably a good thing.
It's highly unlikely that he will announce a game-changing pick -- my odds are that there's a 40 percent chance each of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio getting the nod and only a 20 percent chance of it being someone different -- but it will change the subject, at least for a time."