Romney meets with Tony Blair, declines to criticize Obama

Holly Bailey
The Ticket

LONDON—Mitt Romney kicked off the second day of his overseas tour by meeting with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the first in a series of discussions aimed at bolstering his foreign policy resumé. But he reiterated Thursday he will not criticize President Barack Obama or his policies while he's traveling overseas this week.

"While I am on foreign soil, I'm very careful not to be critical of my own government's policies," Romney told reporters during a later meeting with Labour Party leader Ed Miliband. "I would be even more remiss if I were to be critical of any other government's policies. I will instead look forward to an exchange of ideas."

Miliband was the second of six meetings Romney was scheduled to hold Thursday with top British officials on day two of his weeklong trip overseas. Earlier Thursday morning, Romney sat down with Blair, but the public aspect of their meeting didn't reveal much. The two leaders made small talk about the Olympics and the weather during the few minutes reporters were allowed to observe the meeting.

"Any favorite sporting events you look forward to attending, or not really?" Romney asked Blair, as reporters observed the men at Blair's office in Westminster.

"The British have now become very focused on cycling," Blair replied. "So there will be a lot of interest in that."

Romney ignored a question from his traveling press corps about what "message" he aimed to send back to voters in the United States with his meetings here. But aides have described the trip as a "listen and learn" expedition—one aimed at boosting Romney's foreign policy credentials with voters back home.

A Romney aide told reporters afterwards that the GOP candidate talked to Blair, who serves as a special envoy to the Middle East for the Quartet, about issues in that region, including Iran and Syria. The same topics came up during Romney's meeting with Miliband—as did the Boston Red Sox, according to a Romney aide, who did not elaborate on the baseball conversation.

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Afterwards, Romney toured a local art exhibition with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, where the two discussed Syria and other foreign hot spots—as well as "their mutual love of Kit Kat bars," according to an aide who spoke on background about the meeting. On Thursday afternoon, Romney is scheduled to sit down with two more top British officials: Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

On Thursday night, he's supposed to headline a fundraiser on his campaign's behalf in London's swank Mayfair neighborhood. Tickets to the event reportedly ranged as high as $75,000 a person, with proceeds going to the Romney Victory Fund—a joint account of the Romney campaign, the Republican National Committee and several state parties.