Mitt stubbed his toe on Chen by jumping too fast.
When he proclaimed that Thursday was a "day of shame," he rushed to judgment before the dust had settled. [JF note: Bill Kristol agrees!] Ronald Reagan would have said something similar to "Like all Americans I hope the President will still save Chen, and restore the faith in America of everyone yearning for freedom who depends on America."
"Mishandling" is a good word for Mitt to use now when he describes the Chen situation since it has mostly been resolved. He could even say the President put Chen at risk by having his people rush Chen out of the Embassy; and that he was bailed out by the actions of Christian activists or Hillary - either way a nice insinuendo (if I can coin a new word).
Before the month is over I bet that at least one columnist or comedian says that Romney would never have messed up this opportunity if he hadn't panicked and muzzled his gay ex-foreign policy advisor when anti-gay activists complained .
As the challenger, Mitt has the advantage on the economy. No matter how many new jobs are created he can point to times when the recoveries were faster and note that the low number of 115,000 jobs added, or even if it were 250,000, would have been treated as disappointing in the past.
As the incumbent, Obama can talk about the number of total jobs gained since 2010 or the fact that the decline was in government jobs not manufacturing, but that is all in the realm of defensive "yes, but" answers.
I have no idea what the employment figures will be in the fall but assuming they are slightly better than now -- otherwise nothing to crow about -- Obama will have to make a case that "After me the deluge."
Fatuous Lines to Avoid
Maybe we should have a little icon that looks like Polonius to put on the fatuous lines we will now hear.
Commentators will say ad nauseum, "it's the economy, stupid," without understanding why that famous line of James Carville's was so smart. When I revisited 1992 for my book, I started to sense that James added "stupid" to the phrase to cow journalists and divert them from social issues or daring to ask what "the economy" meant in that election.
People care about different aspects of the economy. We have had political upheavals over inflation, unemployment, interest rates and taxes.
Right now the major focus is on jobs, but don't forget that the Tea Party revolt wasn't about unemployment or inflation, it was about taxes and protecting entitlements for the deserving by slashing entitlements for the undeserving. And how much praise is Obama reaping on Wall Street with the market up but the Bush tax cuts about to expire?...
I suspect Mitt's Swiss bank accounts will be raised again to raise doubts about the trickle down job-creating benefits of tax cuts for the very top bracket. For example: "How many jobs does a Swiss Bank account create?"