Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is trying to shift into high gear, but elections experts say his campaign seems to be stuck in second

Given the ailing economy, Romney should be faring much better, political experts say…

Worse, political experts say, is the somber news for Romney that only 45% of those polled by CNN said that the economy would get better if Romney were elected — two percentage points below Obama’s number.

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I could list other gloomy figures for Obama, but they all leave me with one question: So why is Obama still ahead in the polls? And not just in national polls, but also in key states that are needed for an Electoral College victory.

Shouldn’t Romney be wiping the floor with Obama? By the measurements Romney uses again and again in his speeches — prolonged high unemployment, a failed economy and the unpopularity of “Obamacare” — shouldn’t Americans be rallying around Romney by a significant majority by now?

After all, how long can Romney wait to catch fire? The election is only about three months away. True, Romney gets the opportunity to make a stirring convention speech — but so does Obama.

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We are therefore witnessing a well-rehearsed and coordinated and almost balletic exercise in voter suppression, as Obama and his helpers spend hundreds of millions of dollars convincing middle America that Romney is a rich elitist who made a fortune in rapacious finance capitalism, and whose concern for the bottom line trumps transparency, compassion, and community. The objective of this campaign is to tie Romney down, Gulliver-like, with connections to the most lurid aspects of Bain Capital and the global economy, thereby hobbling his ability to make his case and dragooning white voters into apathy.

The chief objective of any candidate is to define himself positively and his opponent negatively. Romney has allowed the Obama team to define him in their terms. He has three opportunities—his vice presidential pick, his convention speech, and his performance in the debates—to seize the initiative and escape the fetters Obama has constructed. Failure to do so would leave this close election to chance. Romney risks John Kerry’s fate…

Mitt Romney did not kill Joe Soptic’s wife, but the Obama campaign is effectively killing Mitt Romney’s reputation. It may be ugly. It may be dishonest. But if it succeeds, like all killings it will be irrevocable.

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The polls suggesting he’s seven or nine points behind are surely wrong, but given that there is only one national poll that shows him ahead, we have to presume Romney is behind. He should presume he’s behind. And given that there’s no good reason whatever for Obama to be leading, one can only presume that Romney’s strategy in July and now in August is not working

So here’s why he should be talking about other things, releasing plans, giving speeches on big topics — because it’s the only way he can control the discussion. If he says the same thing about the economy every single day, he bores. He provides nothing new for anyone to fix on. He has to feed the beast.

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There’s no need for despair — many independent and uncommitted voters have yet to tune into the race, which still holds several influential milestone events (VP pick, conventions, debates, etc). But if these numbers don’t get significantly better within the next six weeks, it’ll be time to worry. The Weekly Standard’s Jay Cost argues that this race remains Romney’s to win. But the fact that he’s trailing or (best case) roughly tied at this stage means that his campaign must start making their moves. They need to make a sound running mate selection and nail the roll-out. They need to develop a strategy of countering the relentless tornado of attacks while still driving a meaningful and resonant message. They can’t merely rely on glum economic numbers to win the race; voters have grown accustomed to Obama’s great recession. Americans don’t like it, but they’re not sure if Romney would be any better. The spending geyser that will finally be allowed to legally burst after Romney is nominated will certainly help in this process, but Team Romney cannot allow the status quo to play out up until the convention. The other side is out of ideas, is playing dirty, and is winning. Romney bills himself as an accomplished problem-solver and turnaround artist. His biography bears that out. It’s time for a turnaround, governor.

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When is the last time you heard what someone on the Romney campaign was saying and thought, “Geez, that’s pretty sharp. Smart insight. He/She is a pro.”

I’ve followed the Romney operation pretty closely and only two people I’ve come across inside the campaign really impressed me. One of them was shunted out the door in reasonably short order. The other one wasn’t brought on until fairly recently…

[I]t is pretty striking how a guy whose primary credential is his businessman’s ability to master an organization has surrounded himself with so many folks who seem to be more valued for something other than ability.

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As influential as they are, Limbaugh, Coulter and Erickson don’t set the agenda for Republicans. But their reactions underscore the continued fragility of Romney’s relationship with the conservative world. When Romney hews to a strongly conservative line, he is fine. But when the former Massachusetts governor sends any signal — a poorly worded phrase, a staffer’s mistake — that sounds like something a conservative would not say, some of his critics on the right immediately recoil and say, “See — I knew he wasn’t one of us.”…

[T]he problem hasn’t gone away. And it will likely flare up again in the future, when Romney messes up the answer to a question or one of his aides mangles an appearance on television.

The worries expressed by Limbaugh, Coulter and Erickson aren’t nit-picking. They are concerns about the very nature of Mitt Romney and the people he has chosen to run his campaign. Maybe those concerns are mistaken or misdirected. But Limbaugh is right: At this moment, deep down, Republicans and conservatives are not united, not under Mitt Romney or anyone else.

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A senior Romney advisor brushed off recent polls numbers that show Mitt Romney dragging behind President Obama, reminding reporters here today, “It’s the middle of the summer.”

“There have been three polls over the last 36 hours showing us down from anywhere from 6 to 9 points or so,” said the staffer, who declined to go on the record, during a briefing at campaign headquarters.

“Guys, it’s the middle of summer. It’s the doldrums. It’s the middle of the Olympics,” the advisor said. “There’s not been any national news, anything that would push these numbers from minus three to minus nine points. That’s a huge shift. You have to have some kind of precipitating event to move numbers like that.”

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[C]oncern is one thing for Mr. Romney; panic would be another, and it is not yet warranted. If Mr. Obama is really ahead by somewhere in the mid-single digits, we should be seeing more confirmation of that in the coming days. More likely, this remains a two or three point race instead.

The recent national polls aside, the numbers in this race have been exceptionally stable. That’s actually a bad sign for Mr. Romney: the harder the numbers are to move, the more robust a small lead is. But it’s still a small lead, and the conventions, the debates, and Mr. Romney’s vice presidential selection all lie ahead.

When should Mr. Romney really get worried? There are only a few days between the Republican and Democratic conventions this year, but candidates typically get a bounce after they hold their party conventions, and Republicans will hold theirs first. It’s usually a high-water mark for the opposition-party candidate, and if Mr. Romney does not at least pull into a tie with Mr. Obama during polls conducted during that interim period — and preferably, poll ahead of Mr. Obama by a couple of points — it might be time for him to hit the panic button.

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Republicans, especially in the pundit and strategist class, need to take a deep breath. Yes, Mitt Romney has been behind in most of the polls, both in the nation as a whole and in swing states. Yes, there is some evidence that the brutal and unscrupulous ad campaign by the Democrats is hurting his numbers. Yes, the press has been emphasizing his gaffes and alleged gaffes.

And yes, the air is now thick with advice about how Romney needs to reboot his campaign. Some of that advice is even coming from people who wish the campaign well. Many conservatives are urging Romney to make a bold running-mate pick to shake up the race. Others say he needs to offer more policy detail.

Many of the suggestions for veeps and policies are good ones, but Romney shouldn’t take any of them out of panic. The race remains tight, and Obama is below 50 percent both nationally and in the swing states. Romney is running a competent campaign that raises funds effectively, develops its messages and mostly stays on them, and can be trusted to execute its strategies well.

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“I might be the skunk at the picnic, but I’m going to say it and I’m going to say it clearly,” Ingraham said, “Romney is losing.”

Ingraham went on to note how there have been decisive conservative victories in purple and blue states like Wisconsin, New Jersey and Virginia over the last three years, it is clear that Romney is failing to make the conservative arguments that led to victories in these states.

“If the election were held today, Mitt Romney would lose,” said Ingraham.

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