Purely as a matter of domestic politics, Barack Obama’s impending tour of foreign parts could be the most important manoeuvre of his campaign.
When voters are asked whom they trust to do a good job, the Democrat comfortably leads John McCain on most issues – with the vital exceptions of national security and foreign affairs.
During his stops in Europe and the Middle East over the coming days, he has a chance to alter that perception, perhaps decisively.
No question, a trip of this kind has risks: there is always the danger of some memorable gaffe.
But if Mr Obama avoids making any big mistakes, the effusion of goodwill he is likely to meet, and the sheer sense of occasion, are likely to hand him a public relations triumph.
Anticipation of the trip in the United States, to say nothing of the elaborate preparations, is as though for an actual president rather than a mere candidate.
Assured of wall-to-wall press and television coverage, Mr Obama will be trailing a vast retinue of US media, including a trio of television network anchors. (At this one gasps: such eminences rarely venture from the studio.) When Mr McCain travelled recently, we believe to a country in Latin America, nobody cared and few even noticed.