THE ROMNEY FACTOR – AT 8:31 A.M. ET: While Obama's convention bounce has receded, he still leads in virtually all polls, and in most critical swing states as well. Romney has been unable, despite months of campaigning, to make any significant progress.
And Romney is coming under increased, severe criticism from conservative writers and fellow Republicans for running a ho-hum, lackluster campaign. Which he is. Byron York, the thoughtful political commentator for the Washington Examiner, lays out the case:
Mitt Romney is in the race of his life. So why isn't he running harder?
A look at the Republican presidential candidate's schedule of public events shows a remarkably relaxed pace for a man who says this election is critical to America's future.
Yeah. Run like you mean it, Mitt.
Romney's light schedule of public events "has its own body language," says Pat Caddell, the political consultant best known for his work on Jimmy Carter's 1976 and 1980 campaigns. "It doesn't strike you as a campaign in the greatest crisis this country has faced. ... [Romney] comes off as passive."
Too much the manager in the Brooks Brothers suit.
Romney, a busy and industrious man, isn't goofing off. Privately, campaign aides point to the heavy burden of fundraising imposed on candidates since Obama blew up the system of publicly financed campaigns in 2008. Keeping up with the president in the money race takes up a lot of Romney's time...
...But the fact remains: Mitt Romney is the man running for president and has to make the case for himself. As the top of the ticket, he draws the most attention and news coverage. Holding more events means more coverage, which means more voters see Romney.
Having Romney campaign in person is particularly important now because he's trying to craft a more effective message. Romney has been under fire recently, especially from conservatives, for failing to give the public a clear picture of what he will do should he become president. On Monday morning, the campaign announced it is working to fill in the gaps in the message.
To many observers, Romney's moves look like scrambling -- like the campaign, having let Obama define Romney and keep him on the defensive during much of May and June and July, is still struggling to find itself. "The Democrats are fighting for their lives," says Caddell. "Republicans are acting like this is a garden party. There's a difference in mentality that I find stunning."
So do I. It's becoming painful.
Romney aides say they expect to see him on the stump more as the election draws closer. By then, there will be fewer fundraising demands and Romney will concentrate fully on campaigning. But at less than 50 days away, with early voting starting in some places, the election is already pretty close. Where is Mitt right now?
COMMENT: That is well said, and accurate. The first thing Romney must do is establish a coherent, deadly media strategy. He is learning, as John McCain learned, that the media will try to hurt him at every turn, that it is increasingly biased and even corrupt. Ronald Reagan knew that and used every chance to speak over the heads of the reporters.
Also, too many conservatives are depending on the debates, believing they will be Romney's big chance. They're informed by the fact that Reagan broke through in a debate with Carter. But Obama ain't Carter and Romney ain't Reagan. The two current candidates will be more closely matched in debate. And no matter what Romney does, he'll be damned by the establishment press.
Romney wasn't bad in the primary debates, which had the effect of sharpening him. And his campaign proved that it could be deadly when necessary. He's got to take some risks, especially at debate time. He's got to come out swinging against Obama, always showing respect for the presidency, but showing no mercy in any other respect. The usual crowd will label him a "racist" if he attacks Obama, but the only people affected by that argument are those already voting for Obama.
Not much time remaining. Romney needs about four more points to turn this race around. That's not too much to ask.
September 18, 2012