Notice something different about the presidential race? It's a rare moment when neither campaign is dwelling on the economy.
Sparked by Mitt Romney's multi-day trip overseas, the two presidential outfits in recent days have warred over foreign policy. Mostly, it's been the Obama campaign that's taken the offensive, characterizing Romney's string of high-profile verbal blunders as proof he lacks the acumen to handle the country's international affairs. But as the presumptive GOP nominee adheres more or less to his promise not to criticize another president's foreign policy on foreign soil, his allies have struck back, reiterating their longstanding charge that the president has alienated America's staunchest allies while treating its enemies with kid gloves.
The sharp-elbowed fight reveals an important facet of the contest for the White House: Even if voters care far more about jobs and the deficit, other policy debates can still be influential if they shape how people perceive the candidate's character. In other words, voters might not care directly about how Romney would treat the rest of the world, but they'll worry if he can be portrayed as overwhelmed by overseas challenges.