Will ignoring the troops in his convention speech hurt Mitt Romney?

The Republican fails to say anything about Americans serving in Afghanistan, illustrating a larger shift in which party has the most national security cred

Mitt Romney
(Image credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Mitt Romney is still on the defensive over his failure to mention the troops in Afghanistan during his acceptance speech at the GOP convention in Florida. Democrats are continuing to slam the GOP nominee for the omission, and Romney may have made matters worse when he told Fox News' Bret Baier last week that "when you give a speech you don't go through a laundry list. You talk about the things that you think are important." On Sunday's political talk shows, Romney argued that American soldiers know he's committed to them, and that what matters is the difference between his and Obama's policies on Afghanistan. (Obama wants the U.S. to withdraw in 2014, while Romney says there's "no military rationale" for pulling out troops sent as part of Obama's surge.) Has Romney put the matter to rest, or will his failure to clearly pay tribute to the troops at his convention come back to haunt him?

Romney made a mistake, but it will blow over: Mitt clearly made an "unforced error" by failing to specifically mention the troops, says James Taranto at The Wall Street Journal. And predictably, the Democrats tried to exploit it, which is why they "couldn't stop talking about how much they supported the troops" during their convention. But Democrats are protesting a bit too much. Smart voters will see through this charade.

"They support the troops?"

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But Romney's tone-deaf response made matters worse: At first, "this felt like making something out of nothing," says Louis Peitzman at Gawker. And then "Romney offered his justification." Dismissing America's troops part of a "laundry list" was bad. But Romney's glib remark "contrasting them with 'things that you think are important'" made him sound like an uncaring jerk.

"Mitt Romney didn't mention the troops in his speech because he wanted to focus on important things"

And for Romney, this is a symptom of a larger problem: For 40 years, the Republicans were the national security party, says Fred Kaplan at Slate. This convention season, though, it was the Democrats who talked of their president's "backbone" and "courage." With Obama's overseas accomplishments, including the killing of Osama bin Laden, Romney only calls attention to his own lack of foreign policy experience when he mentions the war. That's a "staggering shift."

"A changing of the guard"

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