Scott Walker faces the curse of London

01:03 - Source: CNN
Politicians drawn by London's calling
CNN —  

A tour of London is becoming an unpleasant rite of passage for American politicians with presidential ambitions.

Republican Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana traveled to the United Kingdom recently to try to burnish their foreign policy credentials. Next up is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is in London this week as his early-state polling numbers back home have started to tick up.

They’ve all found that traveling across the pond can be more like sailing into a perfect storm.

For Christie, his troubles stemmed from a puzzlingly ambiguous comment about vaccinations that unleashed a firestorm of disapproval and quickly had the governor’s aides scrambling to clarify his initial remarks. For Jindal, it was his condemnation of so-called “no-go” zones and “non-assimilation” of immigrants in Europe that had his critics agitated even after he was back on American soil.

Walker wasn’t able to entirely escape controversy. He punted on a question about evolution on Wednesday, saying it’s not a topic for politicians to discuss – an answer that could revive scrutiny of how some Republicans interpret science.

Within hours of declining to share his thoughts on the theory of evolution, Walker found himself clarifying his views.

“Both science and my faith dictate my belief that we are created by God. I believe faith and science are compatible, and go hand in hand,” he said in a statement.

READ: Chris Christie sidesteps vaccine science

Walker’s blunder was a testament to just how much scrutiny U.S. elected officials face when they go abroad.

Lyndon Olson, former U.S. ambassador to Sweden under Bill Clinton, said while overseas trips serve the important purpose of demonstrating a political candidate’s foreign policy bona fides, they are often “a double-edged sword.”

“There have been candidates in the past that have gone abroad, both Democrats and Republicans, that have made fools out of themselves because they were so intentional about getting press coverage and the optics of it were so important to them,” said Olson, who is now chairman for U.S. and Europe for the international public relations firm Hill+Knowlton Strategies.

Walker seemed determined avoid the pitfalls that his fellow Republican governors have fallen victim to recently by trying as hard as he can to stick to business.