Romney's Redemption: What Are His Options?
A host of new polls show Romney’s campaign has, in fact, taken a hit thanks to the adverse headlines. He now trails in all national polls and swing states and falls behind Obama 2-1 in field offices.
A Washington Post poll shows Obama leads Romney in the critical swing states of Florida and Ohio. In Florida, Obama holds a lead of 51 percent over Romney’s 47 percent, while the president holds an 8 point lead in Ohio.
As the final weeks of the presidential race wind down, what options does Romney have to turn his campaign around?
1. All eyes on Ohio
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the battleground state of Ohio is crucial for a Romney win. Historically, Ohio has been a state won by every Republican candidate elected to the White House.
While Romney’s aides have dismissed the latest polls, the camp will still campaign hard within the state. On Tuesday, Romney kicked off a two-day bus tour of the state with a rally outside of Vandalia, Ohio.
In response to GOP criticism that Romney spent too much time fundraising and too little time out on the campaign trail, the presidential hopeful plumped his campaign schedule with three events Wednesday and added a handful of rallies this week.
Romney and Obama together aired political ads in excess of 29,000, more than any other state. A Washington Post survey showed 36 percent of all Ohio voters have been contacted by the Obama campaign, while only 29 percent said the same for Romney.
If Tuesday’s rally is any indication of the next few days of campaigning, Romney will use the platform to redirect the focus on Obama’s economic track record, drawing in China and foreign policy. According to the Washington Post, Romney hopes attacking Obama on trade policies in advertisements and ground appearances will generate criticism of Obama that blue-collar voters will get behind.
2. Get specific with the economy
A recent shift by the Romney camp will now refocus his campaign message to frame the election as a “choice” between himself and Obama.
“We think that this emphasis on the stark choice will be critical,” said Romney’s senior campaign advisor Ed Gillespie. “We think it presents a real opportunity for us.”
While Romney isn’t ready to change tune on the economy just yet, he is willing to get more specific with it. After his economic recovery plan faced months of scrutiny for being too vague, Romney plans on dishing out his economic fix-it plan in clearer focus to try and gain more voters.
However, getting too specific with the economy could be just as much of an economic disadvantage as staying elusive on the matter. A Washington Post blog said outlining his policies may remind voters too much of George W. Bush’s—and raise concern that there’s another economic meltdown in the making.
Recent polls showed Romney no longer has an advantage on the economy, with more people believing Obama’s track record isn’t so bad after all. His best chance, argues GOP pollster David Winston, is for Romney not to remind voters who “started the fire that nearly burnt down the economy” but “want the focus to be on putting the fire out.”
3. Dominate the Debates
Romney already has the support of strong conservative voters, who reign among those with the highest interest in the election. Yet, if he focuses on the undecided voters, he could break the trend of this voter group electing the incumbent in the final stages of the election. Romney’s best chance at changing the “go with who you know” trend could come at the debates.
According to Talking Points Memo, Romney’s debate checklist includes taking a punch from the left, firing up early voters and regaining the upper hand.
To do this, Romney will have to become more comfortable with selling his position to fend off Obama’s leftist attacks.
“He has to fence who he’s been, which is more difficult,” former Democratic Rep. Tom Downey, who helped prep Al Gore for his 1996 and 2000 debates, told TPM. “It’s much easier just to say, ‘Here’s what I believe.'"
With the timing of the first debates aligning with early voting, Romney must dominate the first debate to reign in voters in Iowa and Ohio whose voting opens the week before.
“The burden is very high on Romney and the first debate is much more important than the second and third debate because it kicks off early voting in those states,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said. “I know that sounds difficult, but with what’s going on between the campaigns, I’m not sure that a lot of people know where either candidate sits other than the fact that one’s an incumbent and one’s the Republican challenger.”
Lastly, TPM said that although debates are generally inconsequential to the election outcome, Romney needs to try even harder to throw Obama off guard. If Romney can force Obama to fumble on a key fact, the GOP candidate can force media backlash upon Obama and regain his footing in the election.
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