The hits just keep on coming for the Mitt Romney campaign…
Upstaged by Clint Eastwood. No post convention bounce. Too conservative? Not Conservative enough?
To top it off, this weekend, Politico released an exposé of the inner dysfunction of Romney’s campaign staff, trying to determine who’s responsible for a losing (in the polls) presidential campaign that should be winning based on fundamental economic indicators. Highlights of the criticism from sources inside Romney’s inner circle included:
- “You design a campaign to reinforce the guy that you’ve got,” said a longtime Romney friend. “The campaign has utterly failed to switch from a primary mind-set to a general-election mind-set, and did not come up with a compelling, policy-backed argument for credible change.”
- A Romney official explained: “Mitt is a sticker — he stays with you. He had a reputation at Bain for sticking with people. They made a bad investment, he hung with them. … None of this is going to be fixed. This is the organization, and this is who Mitt is betting on to win. There aren’t going to be further changes.”
- “In the la-la land where adviser Stuart Stevens presides, Mr. Romney wins by never saying a single thing, ever, that might rock a single boat, ever.”
Plainly said — ouch. With the weekend news cycle highlighted by the campaign’s infighting and the residual foreign policy focus after the week’s events in Libya (instead of the economy), it’s no surprise that Romney’s staff announced a “strategic shift” today. For better or worse, Romney’s campaign made these changes to turn the focus away from persuading undecided and independent voters and instead focus on amplifying the turnout of the Republican base. As BuzzFeed reports:
“Mitt Romney’s campaign has concluded that the 2012 election will not be decided by elusive, much-targeted undecided voters — but by the motivated partisans of the Republican base… This shifting campaign calculus has produced a split in Romney’s message. His talk show interviews and big ad buys continue to offer a straightforward economic focus aimed at traditional undecided voters. But out stumping day to day is a candidate who wants to talk about patriotism and God, and who is increasingly looking to connect with the right’s intense, personal dislike for President Barack Obama…
The campaigns’ — and particularly Romney’s — new focus on the base is driven by data. Recent public polls in major battleground states suggest the portion of the electorate that is truly undecided in this race is tiny, and shrinking. The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll showed that, with seven weeks to go until election day, just 6 percent of Ohio voters are undecided; in Florida and Virginia, the figure is 5 percent. And, of course, there’s no guarantee those people will turn out to vote at all…”
And what’s the shift in strategy to appeal to these “base voters” and social conservatives moved not by Romney, but fear of Obama? The Romney campaign will… drumroll please… tighten their “change versus status quo” strategy. What does that mean? Didn’t someone say something about change four years ago? In plain english, Romney will continue to focus on the economy, but also provide more specifics on other policy issues — according to senior strategist Ed Gillespie:
“The Romney campaign has not provided enough specifics about the candidate’s vision for the country and pledged a renewed effort in the last 50 days of the race to better communicate with voters… As examples, Mr. Gillespie said that in a speech in California Monday, Mr. Romney would highlight previous proposals to limit the growth in federal programs and reduce the federal work force that will reduce spending by $500 billion in four years. The speech will be before the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles. Asked for examples of other specifics, Mr. Gillespie said the campaign would underscore its promise to be energy independent by the year 2020 by repeating Mr. Romney’s pledge to approve the Keystone oil pipeline, allow drilling off the coast of Virginia and lift the moratorium on oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico.”
So what else can the Romney campaign do to turn out the base and independent voters, surge back in the polls, and actually win in November? Hammering Obama on the airwaves certainly couldn’t hurt, right? More from BuzzFeed:
“Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist and ad-man, said the case against Obama’s record will be made on the airwaves by the campaign and outside Republican groups — and it no longer needs Romney as a daily spokesman.
“On the outside, here’s what going to happen: we’re going to nuke Barack Obama into radioactive sludge in the swing states with 3000-4000 points of TV in September,” Wilson said. “Crossroads and Restore [two Republican SuperPACs] will do the same. It’s going to be hitting in concert with the terrible economic news, and it’ll strike a chord.”
While Romney’s ‘strategic shift’ isn’t all bad for independent voters (more specifics are certainly never a bad thing in today’s political world), it may prove to be too little too late — a chief complaint about Romney’s convention speech was that it was short on specifics, especially his plans to turn around the economy, and that definition may stick with him through November unless he’s able to present a different persona and set of arguments during the upcoming October debates.
There also may be no such “shift” employed by the Romney Campaign. After all, when did politicians and operatives start telling the political media the actual truth? Today’s much heralded “strategic change” is more likely just another chapter of bluster and spin in the long slow battle of words between oft-criticized Republican strategists and political pundits, commentators, and journalists paid to pick apart weakness and laud strength.