So, Obama has had a nearly flawless foreign trip, which he clearly needed to make given the drumbeat of criticism about his "inexperience" from the McCain camp. It went better than anybody could have expected, with such bonuses as Iraqi PM al-Maliki coming out for his withdrawal timetable, that huge and favorable crowd in Berlin waving US flags for his thoughtful and charismatic speech, and even that shot through the hoop from behind the three-point line on the first try before cheering troops in Kuwait. Meanwhile, McCain was making gaffe after gaffe while visiting such outstanding places as the Fudge Haus in the German Village in Columbus, OH (yes, I know, swing city in a swing state), with almost nobody in attendance. But here we get it: McCain is now two points ahead of Obama in the latest polls out of Colorado after Obama being ahead of McCain for months, and reports have McCain making gains in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan as well, enough so that he might be ahead in MN if he picks Pawlenty for VP and ahead in MI if he picks Romney for it. So, what gives?
Probably the best explanation is that this trip has put foreign policy at the top of the debate and voters' consciousnesses, and for all the favorable photo ops and publicity, the hard fact is that McCain continues to hold a substantial lead on this issue over Obama. So, focusing on it has helped McCain, despite his constant references to Czechoslovakia (heck, confusing Slovakia with Slovenia did not hurt Bush in 2000). Of course, Obama needed to make this trip, and hopefully it will help in the longer run, weakening all those presumptions of foreign policy inexperience and incompetence (he looked plenty presidential and commander-in-chiefish, even if many more progressively oriented types may have found his hawkish rhetoric on some issues uncomfortable). But, now that he is back home, he should hope that the attention and the discourse shift back to such issues as the economy, where he clearly has a big lead over McCain.