Talking to special correspondent Tom Brokaw about Mitt Romney's 10-day international tour on Thursday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie suggested the effort was a mistake: "Is it a smart idea, an opportunity to look presidential? Or is it a week lost when he could be driving that message on the economy?"
Brokaw's first reaction was to gush over Barack Obama's 2008 trip abroad: "I actually interviewed President Obama, then-Senator, here in London after a very successful trip. Times were different. There was no Arab Spring at that time, Europe was not yet in an economic meltdown, this was a fresh face after eight years of George W. Bush, who was not popular." Brokaw then added: "But it's mandatory for a presidential candidate to make these kind of tours."
Brokaw also touted anonymous GOP sources fretting over Romney not making an effective case against Obama:
I've been hearing it from almost all the senior Republicans that I know who are not directly attached to his campaign....One of them said quite simply he has to persuade the American people, who hired President Obama, they now have to fire him. And he hasn't done a very good job of that, primarily because he's not stepped forward in a way that they believe he must.
In a report prior to Guthrie's exchange with Brokaw, campaign correspondent Peter Alexander began by touting President Obama's poll advantage on foreign policy: "The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows that by a double-digit margin more Americans trust President Obama than Mitt Romney to handle foreign policy issues. And on this trip, Romney's hoping to close that gap with a show of statesmanship."
Alexander then chose to highlight Obama campaign attempts to tear down one of Romney's strengths: "In London through Friday's opening ceremony, Romney is hoping to highlight his own Olympic experience, reviving the 2002 Salt Lake City games...But now even that success story is being used against him, with a pro-Obama super-PAC spoofing Romney's business background in this new ad."
A clip played of the ad, mocking Romney's leadership at the winter games: "There's Mitt Romney, who ran the Salt Lake City games, waving to China, home to a billion people, thousands owe their jobs to Mitt Romney's companies."
On Thursday, the International Olympic Committee demanded that the pro-Obama group that made the ad, Priorities USA, take it down immediately: "The Olympic Games are a celebration of friendship, excellence and respect....the attacks, using Olympic themes and images, need to stop."
Near the end of his report, Alexander took another Olympic shot at Romney: "Here at the games, the Romney's literally have a horse in this race. Ann Romney's horse Refalka will compete for the U.S. next Saturday, in the exclusive sport of dressage."
Here is a full transcript of Guthrie's July 26 exchange with Brokaw:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Tom Brokaw is an NBC News special correspondent. Tom, good morning, it's good to see you.
TOM BROKAW: Good morning, Savannah. It's good to be back here.
GUTHRIE: Well, Romney's here for a week on his overseas trip. Candidate Obama did the same thing four years ago. Is it a smart idea, an opportunity to look presidential? Or is it a week lost when he could be driving that message on the economy?
BROKAW: Well, there was a big debate within the Romney campaign about whether he should come four years ago. I actually interviewed President Obama, then-Senator, here in London after a very successful trip. Times were different. There was no Arab Spring at that time, Europe was not yet in an economic meltdown, this was a fresh face after eight years of George W. Bush, who was not popular.
But it's mandatory for a presidential candidate to make these kind of tours. The big stop will be Israel. We'll see a lot of Governor Romney in Israel, probably with Bibi Netanyahu, very close, and prominent Jewish fundraisers who want to peel away the Jewish vote from the Democratic Party on this cycle.
GUTHRIE: One thing we saw in our recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll was that both candidates have high negative ratings. Obviously the campaign is taking a toll with some voters. First of all, do you think that the attacks on Romney on Bain have been successful? Secondly, do they hurt President Obama on the one issue where he's been pretty consistent, which is voters say he's likable?
BROKAW: Well, it's a double-edged sword. Very senior Republicans who've been at this a long time are very worried about the success of the Obama campaign and the President himself defining Governor Romney. That's the last thing you want to do in American politics. On the other hand, it probably has lowered the public estimation of President Obama personally. They just don't like negative voting. A lot of this will change once the conventions get under way. We'll have a whole redefinition of this campaign beginning in late August, after the Olympics, Savannah.
GUTHRIE: And you've reported that some senior Republicans are worried that Romney's not counterpunching harder.
BROKAW: No, that – in fact, I've been hearing it from almost all the senior Republicans that I know who are not directly attached to his campaign. They've been around a long, long time. One of them said quite simply he has to persuade the American people, who hired President Obama, they now have to fire him. And he hasn't done a very good job of that, primarily because he's not stepped forward in a way that they believe he must.
GUTHRIE: Well, one thing that's clear about this race is it's been remarkably static the last few months, they've been just within a few points of each other. What's the game-changer that's going to shake it up and be determinative here?
BROKAW: Well, a couple of things. First of all, the conventions will, what happens in the economy, and I think it'll stay pretty much where it is. And then the Commission on Presidential Debates announced yesterday that they would have a series of debates. Those will be paramount in the American public's eyes about determining, "Is that someone I'm comfortable with? Is that someone who I think can fix what's wrong with the country?" So we have a long way to go, Savannah.
GUTHRIE: We do indeed. Tom Brokaw, good to see you. Thank you so much.
BROKAW: Always good. Thanks.
GUTHRIE: And by the way, Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, will be with us live tomorrow on Today and we'll also talk to the First Lady Michelle Obama, who's leading the U.S. delegation here.