We made a big deal in 2008 when John McCain went to Ottawa in the middle of the 2008 campaign. McCain spoke to the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa on June 20. U.S. presidential candidates don't usually know much about Canada, and the country rarely comes up in the debates.
In one of the early debates for the Democratic Party in 2007, Barack Obama slipped and said "president" instead of "prime minister." Then again, Obama's first trip as president was to Canada, restoring a proud tradition, and has worked well with Canada and the Harper government.
If Mitt Romney is the GOP nominee in 2012, and all signs are pointing that way, Romney does have extensive knowledge of Canada.
Romney spent part of his summers near Grand Bend, Ontario. Romney's father, George, was president of American Motors Corporation before becoming Michigan's governor. The Globe and Mail reported that "Mitt remarked during one of his father's political campaigns that he first spent July 4 in the United States at age 15."
Most of Bain Capital's relationships with Canadian companies occurred after Romney left the company, but the interest Romney gets (at a 15% taxable rate) is in part from those agreements.
Then there is the dog story.
In 1983, Romney and his family drove from Boston to that cottage in Grand Bend, Ontario. Romney loaded the station wagon and put the family's Irish setter, Seamus, in an "air-tight container" (Romney's words) on top of the family station wagon. Well, despite Romney's self-assuredness that the dog would be fine, Seamus started having accidents as the no longer air-tight container began to leak. Even after the trauma of what happened, Romney hosed everything down and put the dog back in there for the rest of the trip.
We have seen reports that Seamus ran away once the family was in Canada.
On top of that, Newt Gingrich attacked Romney for speaking French. Given that Romney spent time in France as a Mormon missionary and has taken his family on vacation there, one would assume that Romney's French is better than George W. Bush's Spanish, and Romney would do just fine in Quebec and New Brunswick.
Newt Gingrich mentioned the elephant in the room (pun heavily intended) when he praised Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper as "conservative and pro-American" after Gingrich's win in the South Carolina primary. Gingrich brought up pipelines, specifically the Keystone XL pipeline and the proposed pipeline that would carry oil from Alberta to the Pacific Ocean.
"Now, an American president who can create a Chinese-Canadian partnership is truly a danger to this country," said Gingrich, never one to be subtle in his remarks.
Speaker Gingrich, once 2 heartbeats away from being president, should know that referring to Canada's PM as "pro-American" doesn't go over well in Canada, even if it's true.
Diplomacy is crucial in being president but not always required in being House Speaker.
Other than representing a state that barely borders a Great Lake, Rick Santorum hasn't weighed in much on Canada, though you have to imgaine that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Santorum agree on way too many issues.
Unlike John McCain's 2008 running mate — okay, Sarah Palin — the reason Mitt Romney may not be able to name the number of times he has been to Canada is that there are so many of them. And the fact that Romney's father, George, was born in Mexico gives him complete NAFTA cred.
This isn't to say that Romney would make a good or bad president. However, in a Obama-Romney battle, both have a keen awareness of Canada.