If we keep saying candidate trips abroad are a tradition, they will become one

In an article written around the time Mitt Romney departed for Europe, I noted that the media was treating his foreign sojourn in the midst of campaign season as a completely normal and expected thing for him to do, while it was considered bizarre and novel four years ago when Barack Obama did it. ABC, ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
Uriel Sinai/Getty Images
Uriel Sinai/Getty Images
Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

In an article written around the time Mitt Romney departed for Europe, I noted that the media was treating his foreign sojourn in the midst of campaign season as a completely normal and expected thing for him to do, while it was considered bizarre and novel four years ago when Barack Obama did it. ABC, for instance,  touted Romney's trip as the "First Foreign Trip of His Candidacy" as if it was it was weird that he had taken so long.

As another example, I was struck by this opening line from Steve Coll's recap of the piece in the New Yorker

The humid lull between the party primaries and the party conventions is the traditional moment for a Presidential challenger to peacock abroad as a prospective Commander-in-Chief. Four years ago, Barack Obama cruised the Iraqi war zone in a helicopter, dazzled throngs in Europe with his then fresh rhetoric of change, and charmed American soldiers in a Kuwaiti gymnasium, where, with preternatural nonchalance, he lofted a three-point shot toward a distant rim. He drained the three, the soldiers roared, and, somewhere back home, John McCain slumped deeper into gloom.

In an article written around the time Mitt Romney departed for Europe, I noted that the media was treating his foreign sojourn in the midst of campaign season as a completely normal and expected thing for him to do, while it was considered bizarre and novel four years ago when Barack Obama did it. ABC, for instance,  touted Romney’s trip as the "First Foreign Trip of His Candidacy" as if it was it was weird that he had taken so long.

As another example, I was struck by this opening line from Steve Coll’s recap of the piece in the New Yorker

The humid lull between the party primaries and the party conventions is the traditional moment for a Presidential challenger to peacock abroad as a prospective Commander-in-Chief. Four years ago, Barack Obama cruised the Iraqi war zone in a helicopter, dazzled throngs in Europe with his then fresh rhetoric of change, and charmed American soldiers in a Kuwaiti gymnasium, where, with preternatural nonchalance, he lofted a three-point shot toward a distant rim. He drained the three, the soldiers roared, and, somewhere back home, John McCain slumped deeper into gloom.

Coll doesn’t mention any other precedents other than Obama, and as far as I’ve found, there aren’t really any. A few candidates — George McGovern, Harold Stassen — have taken quasi-campaign trips before oficially declaring their candidacy, but Obama was the first to head overseas after winning the primary.  

Can something really be "traditional" the second time it happens?

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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