ON THE ROMNEY CAMPAIGN PLANE--Flying from Philadelphia to Boston, Mitt Romney gave reporters in the press cabin some quality candidate time. After joking with a reporter who had been accidentally left behind by the press bus and later passing out beef jerky, the GOP candidate was back again—this time to give reporters a read-out about his phone call on Friday afternoon with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
He said he and Netanyahu, a longtime friend who he had first met in the late 1970s when they were both working at the Boston Consulting Group, had talked about Iran and other issues of concern in the Middle East, including the unrest in Syria. All serious issues, Romney acknowledged, but he couldn't resist ribbing the prime minister.
"I complimented him on his address at the United Nations," Romney said. "I suggested that his graphic was not up to the normal Boston Consulting Group standards."
Pausing, he added, "No, I didn't actually do that, but I was thinking that."
Romney was referencing a cartoon-like graphic in the shape of a bomb that Netanyahu employed to explain the threat of a nuclear Iran.
Asked if there is "daylight" between the position he holds toward Iran and the one put forward by Netanyahu, Romney didn't say. But he used the moment to criticize his opponent, President Barack Obama, for not offering tough sanctions against Iran in the first place.
"He's moved over time," said Romney. "From the very beginning, I thought crippling sanctions needed to be put in place…to see action opposed to just words. His words, more recently, are more consistent with the words I've been speaking for some time, and we'll see what actions he pursues."
Offering a more cautious tone than he did in the aftermath of the deadly attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions abroad, Romney added that it was "premature" to say what the Obama administration did "correctly or incorrectly" in how it handled the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador, and three others were killed.
"There are a wide array of reports about warnings and were they heeded. We'll find out whether that was the case or that was not the case," Romney said. "There was a great deal of confusion about that from the very beginning on the part of the administration and whether that was something that they were trying to paper over or whether it was just confusion given the uncertain intelligence reports. Time will tell."
As Romney addressed reporters, the GOP candidate seemed upbeat. He said he was looking forward to next week's debate, his first with Obama, but said he wasn't sure "how important it will be."
"I don't know what will happen at the debates, but I think it will be a good chance for the president and me to have a conversation with the American people about our respective views, and I think that will give people a chance to understand where we actually stand, as opposed to where our opposition thinks we stand," Romney said. "They'll be able to make a more informed choice."
As Romney spoke, it was hard not to notice the candidate was wearing a blue tie with horseshoes and four-leafed clovers, symbols of good luck—something Romney needs heading into the final 39 days of the campaign.