The Age: Serena Williams sure has friends in high places. Usually, the 14-time grand slam winner’s supporters’ box is populated by family members but for her first-round Olympics match on Saturday there was an addition to the cast: the American first lady, Michelle Obama.
The US president’s wife was a guest of Williams, who won her fifth Wimbledon singles title three weeks ago, preferring to sit in the players’ box rather than the Royal Box, where dignitaries are usually planted at the All England Club.
And after the US president’s wife sat alongside Williams’ mother, Oracene Price, inside the Centre Court it was quickly obvious the two were not exactly strangers.
The 30-year-old twice referred to the first lady as simply “Michelle” during her post-match news conference, having disposed of Serbia’s former world No.1 Jelena Jankovic 6-3 6-1 with little drama on Saturday.
“Oops, am I being rude?” Williams said when asked whether she was on first-name basis with Mrs Obama. “She’s so cool. I’ve met her several times. I feel comfortable saying ‘Michelle,’ and I think she wants the people to feel that way.
“They asked me did I mind if she sat in the family box. I was like, ‘of course not’. Please, it would be my honour. I mean, I love Michelle.”
A British fan holds a Union flag over the head of Mitt Romney as he attended the morning swimming session on Day One of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Romney’s visit to London featured a string of embarrassing gaffes, including him doubting in an interview that the city was ready to host the Games, earning him a sharp public rebuke from Prime Minister David Cameron. The hashtag #RomneyShambles promptly trended on Twitter.
Even far-right British newspaper The Daily Mail – no friends of President Obama – was scathing in its assessment of Romney, describing it as an “abysmal diplomatic visit”:
…. After making the epic faux pas of questioning whether London was fully prepared to host the Olympic games, Mr Romney has been jeered on American TV and slammed by top British politicians, with London mayor Boris Johnston mocking the Massachusetts governor in front of a crowd of 60,000.
…. behind the scenes officials were even more scathing about the Republican presidential hopeful, describing his visit as a ‘car crash’ and comparing him unfavourably to Sarah Palin.
Another official who met with the former Governor of Massachusetts said he was ‘apparently devoid of charm, warmth, humour or sincerity’.
…. Another Whitehall official said of Mr Romney’s remarks: ‘What a car crash. We are speechless’ – with one aide saying the candidate was ‘worse than Sarah Palin’….
First lady Michelle Obama watches the women’s singles tennis match between Serena Williams of the U.S. and Jelena Jankovic of Serbia at the All England Lawn Tennis Club during the London 2012 Olympics Games, July 28
.. with Venus Williams and former gymnast Dominique Dawes
Serena Williams gives a thumbs up gesture toward her sister Venus and first lady Michelle Obama after she defeated Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic
Monday: The President will participate in an Ambassador Credentialing Ceremony at the White House. In the afternoon, he will travel to New York City for campaign events and return to Washington, DC at night.
Tuesday: The President will attend meetings at the White House.
Wednesday: The President will travel to Mansfield, Ohio and Akron, Ohio for campaign events. He will return to Washington, DC at night.
Thursday: The President will travel to Orlando, Florida and Leesburg, Virginia for campaign events. He will return to Washington, DC in the evening.
Friday: The President will attend meetings at the White House.
The Guardian: Mitt Romney’s campaign is scrambling to limit the damage from his gaffe-strewn visit to London – which has drawn mocking put-downs from the city’s mayor and the British prime minister, and “Mitt the twit” headlines in the UK – by saying that Americans don’t care what the foreign press prints.
But the attempt to downplay the debacle made little headway in the face of a barrage of critical coverage in the US, which portrayed the Republican presidential candidate as incompetent and undiplomatic, and stinging criticism from American Olympic legend Carl Lewis, who suggested that Romney should not be allowed to travel abroad.
…. The New York Daily News called Romney’s visit to the UK “flub-filled”. “At this rate, Mitt Romney may provoke an international incident with the United Kingdom by the weekend,” it said.
…. Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, …. said the near farce of Romney’s trip will reinforce doubts in the minds of some voters about his fitness for the presidency.
“The image is somewhat that he’s not ready for prime time. It’s London for God’s sakes. You have to try to mess up a foreign debut in Great Britain if you’re an American candidate for president. It looks terrible. He was a gaffe machine. It wasn’t just a single gaffe. Every time he opened his mouth he created another gaffe,” he said.
NYT: …. Mr. Romney has misspoken before, despite his highly disciplined, analytical and cautious campaign. But it may be the very consultant-cool personality of his campaign that has helped propel Mr. Romney’s Olympic-size gaffe.
…. The aftermath was swift and vicious, with the British press devouring Mr. Romney like a pile of mushy peas. His campaign was slow and flat-footed in recognizing it had a problem, and unable to improvise a quick response.
Instead, staff members were forced to watch as David Cameron, the British prime minister, offered a tart and public rebuke on Thursday. “Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere,” Mr. Cameron said, an obvious allusion to the Games Mr. Romney oversaw in Salt Lake City.
Afterward, the campaign said that Mr. Romney had misspoken because he was tired and jet-lagged… Two British television networks led with the gaffe on their nightly broadcasts (a third ran it second), and Mr. Romney awoke to British headlines proclaiming him a “party-pooper” and “Mitt the Twit.”
Washington Post: Mitt Romney’s Friday was better than his Thursday. He did very little.
…. Romney’s missteps have drawn extensive mockery in Britain and public consternation from both Republicans and Democrats in the United States, and his campaign advisers were at a loss Friday to put a positive spin on the story — other than to look ahead to the next two stops on his tour.
…. As a result, there is now immense pressure on him to find better footing in Israel and Poland…
… in the absence of any new biographical narrative or policy pronouncements, the media coverage of Romney’s trip has centered on his Olympics gaffe — and the result has been brutal for the candidate.
Even some Republicans acknowledged the damage Romney’s comments had caused. “You have to sort of shake your head,” former George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove said Friday on Fox News. But Rove said he did not think it was “a big deal,” adding that Romney “walked it back adroitly, but nonetheless the damage was done.”
Gallup: While Republicans may look favorably on Romney’s visit to Israel, another group with keen interest in U.S.-Israeli relations — Jewish Americans — solidly backs Obama in the election.
Gallup Daily tracking from June 1-July 26 finds Jewish registered voters favoring Obama over Romney by 68% to 25%. That is essentially the same as Gallup’s prior update on Jewish voting preferences.
Although one goal of Romney’s Israel visit could be to attract greater support among Jewish voters in the U.S., Jewish Americans have been a traditionally strong Democratic group, so they are unlikely to become much more supportive of Romney regardless of the outcome of the trip.