Romney Reboot

Posted September 17th, 2012 at 11:45 pm (UTC+0)


Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney waves to the audience at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles, California Sept. 17 in a bid to improve his support among Latin Americans. Photo: AP

Back to the Economy

Seven weeks to go and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is feeling the pressure. After getting no bounce from the Republican Party convention in Tampa, Florida and watching President Obama’s modest climb in the polls, the Romney camp is trying to refocus on the economy and jobs in the final weeks, or at least in the days leading up to the first presidential debate October 3rd.

Last week was a bit of a lost one for the Republican candidate and his campaign. Mr. Romney’s decision to move in full throttle on the violence in the Middle East drew bad media reviews and once again kept the campaign off-message for days. Instead of focusing on the economy — still the Romney camp’s strongest card — the candidate found himself on the defensive trying to explain his critique of Obama foreign policy in the Middle East in the midst of a crisis over the mob attacks on the U.S. consulate in Libya and the embassy in Cairo.


Back to Basics

The central theory of the Romney campaign has always been that their man will win once he convinces enough voters that President Obama has failed and that Mr. Romney’s business experience warrants giving him a shot in the White House for the next four years.



President Barack Obama campaigns in Columbus, Ohio Sept. 17, as his bid for re-election moves into high gear. Photo: AP

But turning an incumbent president out of office is always a two-step process. Step one is convincing voters the incumbent has failed. Has Mr. Romney succeeded here? I’d say the grade is “Incomplete.” There is plenty of evidence for voters to understand that the economy is still nowhere near as strong and robust as they would like it. But polls suggest some voters still hold the previous administration of President George W. Bush at least partly responsible for the current state of affairs, so not all the blame is falling on President Obama. Plus some voters may be open to the Obama argument that things are not as bad as they could be had the president not taken action early in his term.

But the second step of the process is where Mr. Romney seems to have faltered. Once you make the case that the incumbent should go, you then have a responsibility to lay out why the challenger should be elected. That involves offering a clear picture of who the candidate is and what he or she stands for, and also what specifically they would do once in office.

Mr. Romney had success in making himself acceptable to conservatives during the primaries, but he has not made an easy transition to a general election candidate. For example, what did he and vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan have to offer to moderate swing voters during their convention? Mr. Romney continues to trail the president in terms of personal likability, but that doesn’t necessarily doom your chances in the election. Before giving Romney the keys to the White House, what voters seem to want from the Republican nominee is a better sense of who he is and a better idea of exactly what he would do once in office.


Debates are Key

Mitt Romney’s best chance to turn things around will probably be the first presidential debate on October 3rd. The first debate is always one of those key moments in the campaign where even casual voters like to tune in and get a sense of the two candidates.

If Mr. Romney can make a convincing case for his own election without appearing to savage the president, he could make the race a nail-biter once again. Mr. Romney did try to strike this note during his convention acceptance speech when he adopted a kind of sorrowful tone in trying to convince swing voters that as much as they would have liked the president to succeed, he wasn’t able to and now it’s time for a change.

Mr. Romney has to contend with the fact that voters probably will always like Barack Obama better, and that means he’s going to have to appeal to their heads, not their hearts. Sure, the far right was always an easy sell on the idea of turning Mr. Obama out of office.

But figuring out how to handle swing voters who are disappointed in the president and at least open to the idea of supporting the Republican nominee is a much more nuanced, subtle challenge. And it’s a challenge that so far the Romney campaign has not been able to figure out.



6 responses to “Romney Reboot”

  1. John Goodwin says:

    Grossly petty politics. … Once again, our neighbor to the South is poised to elect a socialist. You haven’t endured enough pain as your economic engine are living in their cars outside their foreclosed on homes and in tents in parks with their children?
    His next term he will finish the job.

  2. Mes says:

    Problem is Mitt can’t articulate what he would do to turn the U.S. economy around. It seems he would prefer that Americans elect him because he’s a businessman and trust that he will improve the economy. That approach might work in a corporate environment, but not in an election.

  3. Roastegg says:

    If any intelligent American examines the facts, they could never in their right minds vote for the Republican – yet, Romney. But, we must not forget they voted twice for a greater fool, who mashed up their economy, engaged in two wars gave the biggest tax decrease to the very wealthy – and say to Barack Obama – here – fix it in 3 1/2 years. Yet it took 8-years to destroy. Now here comes a man whom was born rich, has servants and maids and was never hungry, or does not have any feelings for the middle class or the poor and is convincing the Americans to vote him to destroy the country again. Be warned, if Mitt Romney gets in power he will provoke the rest of the world with his ignorance and cause a massive war which could be destructive to the entire world. Americans – beware, use your heads, not greed. Mitt Romney is not good for USA.

    • TX Lady says:

      You are such a fool! Romney is an honest man who has worked his butt off earning his wealth. He has actually accomplished something, paid millions in taxes and in charitable contributions. If you don’t like the tax rate he’s allowed, pressure Congress to change the code.

      Obama stands for the slaughter of innocent infants as they exit the womb (partial-birth abortion), the gay agenda … , big government kicking in the doors of our citizens, and devaluation of our dollar (“stimulus”) because he has no clue how to bring about fiscal policy and work with others. Oh, and by the way – Obama supports the Muslim Brotherhood over American citizens. Get a clue!

  4. rahul says:

    Romney, the four-time draft dodger, was in Israel four weeks ago calling for Israel to attack Iran. He’s got their back. lol.
    If israel wants to attack Iran, let Israel act alone, not drag the USA into more war. … Who’s paying for this war. Tax-payers didn’t take on the job of world police. Nor would we [want] the goverment driving jobs out and debt onto the people. Treason. …

Jim Malone

Jim Malone

After a stint in the Peace Corps in Swaziland, Jim joined VOA in 1983 as a reporter and anchor on English broadcasts to Africa.  He served as East Africa correspondent, then covered Congress in the early 1990’s.   Since 1995, Jim has served as VOA national correspondent responsible for coverage of U.S. politics, elections, the Supreme Court and Justice Department.  Jim has been involved in VOA’s election coverage since the 1984 presidential campaign and has co-anchored live VOA broadcasts of numerous national political conventions, candidate debates and election night coverage.


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