But Zito found an entirely different reaction in the diner. "People were just floored by the press," she says. "The group was pretty mixed between Obama supporters and Romney supporters, and even the Obama supporters were astonished by how they felt the press was driving the story. One guy said, 'My God, six out of seven questions were the same question.' Another guy said, 'Why aren't they asking him anything serious?'"
What Zito saw was entirely anecdotal; maybe she just found a group of people who coincidentally thought the same thing. But the reactions at the diner raise a question: There's a near-consensus among the political class that Romney made a disastrous error in the embassy matter. But what do actual voters think?
It's too early to know the answer; Scott Rasmussen, who conducts a daily tracking poll on the race, saw no change in Romney's standing on national security issues the night after the controversy broke. (Rasmussen's Wednesday night polling found Romney leading Obama overall for the first time in a week, but by just a single point, 47 percent to 46 percent.) Still, there is no reason to assume the voters as a whole think like a small group of Washington- and New York-based journalists.
Riding a wave of media approval, Obama shows no outward signs of worry about the increasingly volatile situation for Americans in the Middle East. On the same day he announced the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya, and as protesters returned to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, the president flew to Las Vegas for a little campaigning.
Speaking to a group of volunteers, Obama seemed to equate the fight for his re-election with America's long history of fighting for freedom. "The sacrifices that our troops and our diplomats make are obviously very different from the challenges that we face here domestically," the president told his campaign workers. "But like them, you guys are Americans who sense that we can do better than we're doing."
There's no doubt the president has the upper hand when it comes to national security issues. A Fox News poll released Wednesday shows Obama has a huge advantage over Romney on foreign policy; by a margin of 54 percent to 39 percent, voters say Obama can better handle the issue.