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Hello, Mitt Romney – Are you there?

posted at 7:14 am on October 2, 2012 by

Step it up Mitt!

If you haven’t subscribed to Ben Domenech’s The Transom, I highly suggest you do.  In the September 28th edition, Ben highlights in some of the suggested links how Mitt Romney needs to kick it into high gear.  We’re less than forty days away from Election Day and it seems Team Romney is content with maintaining their heading.  Are they aware that they’re still in a slump? This is rapidly becoming John McCain reloaded – except our candidate is younger.

As Byron York noted in The Washington Examiner on September 27:

Romney’s oscillation between a more and less aggressive stance comes as Republicans both inside and outside the party establishment are urging him to be more assertive against Obama.  At Ryan’s first Ohio appearance of the week, a rally Monday in Lima, voter after voter recommended the Romney campaign change course.  “Be more aggressive,” said one.  “More forceful,” said another. “Bolder,” said another.  “Hit harder,” said another. “More fire,” said another. By that, they meant not only that Romney hit Obama harder but that he also be more assertive and forthcoming about his own plans for the White House.

Before Romney’s speech in Toledo, CBS News’ Jan Crawford asked him whether he plans to heed those supporters who want to see a more aggressive candidacy.  Romney didn’t seem to fully understand the question.  ‘This is a campaign, not about character assassination, even though that’s what I think has come from the Obama camp by and large,’ he said.

Asked to elaborate, Romney said Obama and his allies ‘completely misrepresent my point of view.’  In one brief sentence, he seemed to equate aggressiveness with lying and character assassination — which is not at all what his supporters have in mind.  And on the question of changing the tenor of his own campaign, Romney said, ‘I listen to a lot of advice but frankly I’m going to keep on my message, which is I know how to get this economy going, create jobs, more take home pay for the American people.’

The reason Romney’s supporters want to see changes in his candidacy, of course, is the growing number of polls showing Romney falling behind Obama in Ohio and other key states.  Republicans here are divided over the polls.  While some distrust them completely, others worry they might be right, even if the president’s lead is smaller than some surveys suggest.

Politico had a rather fair assessment of Romney’s weaknesses concerning:

his past willingness to change or shade his views for apparent political advantage resulted, over time, in one of his biggest political vulnerabilities. One close confidant said Romney sees the process like buying a company from a reluctant seller: Just do and say what you need to do to get the deal done, and then when it’s done, do what you know actually needs to be done to make the company a success. It is hard to overestimate how much confidence Romney and many around him have that he can lead once he has the power to lead.

This do-and-say-what-it-takes tendency is reflected in his constantly changing message. His campaign was premised on a disciplined focus on jobs. But he has rarely stuck to it, to the dismay of advisers who have urged a relentless focus on exactly what he would do to create jobs, like Rick Santorum did during the primaries with his plan to revive U.S. factories.

And now, with the campaign taking on water, he hits the president on anything he can rip from the headlines: welfare last month, Libya at the start of this month, China this week and debt today. Romney is cautious by nature, which paid off in business. But in politics, rather than chart a bold course and stick with it, he winds up trimming and dodging in ways that, cumulatively, sink in with voters.

Concerning the shift in message on the economy, Domenech noted that “Robert Samuelson’s piece on the consumer mood is a good example of why you should never bet on a straight up economic referendum election.”  Samuelson wrote on September 28 that “although the economy remains weak by most indicators, consumer optimism has registered a distinct, though modest, gain. The stock market is up, as are the three main confidence surveys — from Gallup, the University of Michigan and the Conference Board. The contrast suggests some possible explanations: (a) the economic indicators are backward looking and the economy is stronger than the numbers suggest; or (b) something else — the political conventions, falling gasoline prices, the Federal Reserve’s latest credit easing — has made people slightly more optimistic.”

As a result, “it’s good news for the president. The rise in consumer optimism has coincided with gains in his approval rating and a widening of his lead over Mitt Romney in most opinion polls.”  However, I’m sure Obama will tout the 386,000 jobs created in September – which is the estimate for now since the official numbers aren’t released until October 5.  However, Samuelson reported that bad economic indicators still handicap the president.  For instance, “the Commerce Department lowered its estimate of economic growth for the March-June quarter from an already-weak 1.7 percent to an anemic 1.3 percent. (The figures are annualized growth rates for the quarter.) About 0.2 percentage points of the reduction reflected the effects of the Midwest drought; the heat has cut grain harvests. But there were also downward revisions of consumer spending and exports.”

It all depends on how Romney and his team dissect and disseminate this information in a way that impacts swing voters.  No more going silent– which they virtually did during the Democratic Convention.  Romney needs to up the ante.  We’re approaching the finish line and if this is the best he could do – then the Republican Party needs to find a new line of work.  The debates are key.  It’s the avenue in which he can truly reboot his campaign and attack the president on the same stage.  The president is not a good debater. A fact that was acknowledged by NY Magazine’s John Heilemann – where he said that Hillary Clinton won almost every debate during the ’08 primaries.

On the other hand, debating is Romney’s strong suit.  He’s been practicing since June and I believe this could be a unique opportunity to turn Obama’s campaign on its head.  Matthew Dowd reiterated this weekend on how George W. Bush was leading by seven in the polls against John Kerry in 2004 – which quickly became a one point race after the debates.  Being on the same stage makes these two men equal in the court of public opinion. While I’m sure Romney has a few zingers up his sleeve to undercut the president’s agenda during the debates – he needs to come off, not only strong, competent, and presidential on the issues, but empathetic.  As Domenech wrote in his daily email:

He [Romney] needs a moment that encapsulates why he, not President Obama, is the one who actually cares about the plight of the American people. And he will likely have an opportunity to do so given the attitude of the president and his campaign team regarding the economy—one largely marked by defensiveness publicly, and privately acceptance of a new reality. Romney’s ability to talk about why electing him will mean the difference between small business success and jobs on the one hand and a permanent welfare/entitlement state on the other is key to this. Talking about how he has traveled across the country, talking to small businessmen who’ve had to lay off their longtime employees, talking to people who’ve been laid off, talking to towns who are losing their hardworking young people… and who do not wish to turn to welfare because they understand what it would do to their pride. This is the key to Obama’s case: that the American people would’ve been worse off without him. Romney needs to make the case that the American people will be better off with him.

If Obama emulates Bill Clinton’s ’92 debate moment – we’re dead.

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We saw something similar to the current situation play out during the primaries, when Team Romney was surprised when Gingrich and then Santorum came up and surprised them during the primary season. The difference there was Mitt could recover from those mistakes by dropping a money bomb on Newt and Rick in the next primary states, and overall, while the media didn’t like any Republican candidate not named Jon Huntsman, they disliked Romney less than Gingrich and Santorum, so Mitt wasn’t double-teamed by the other campaign and the press.

That’s not going to happen here. Because he seems as much concerned about his dignity and decorum on the campaign trail in the face of both Team Obama and the media’s overall attacks, we’re about three weeks away from Mitt pulled a Bob Dole “Where’s the outrage?” line, as the election nears and he wonders why people aren’t angry about Obama’s gaffes, cover-ups and the overall state of the country, the same way Dole wondered why voters weren’t mad about Clinton’s problems in the closing days of the ’96 election.

If Romney seems reluctant to really go after Obama, the message it sends to the few undecided voters is there must not be that much of a problem if the opposing candidate can’t get angry and stay angry about it. Mitt seems to think the voters should and/or will figure it out for themselves, but even if he does great in the debate on Wednesday, he can’t spend Thursday simply running a victory lap, because if any good economic numbers come out from the Labor Department on Friday, the spin will be everything Romney said on the economy during the debate is now false or inoperative. If Team Mitt can’t see this one coming and understand they have to keep hammering their message home, they really should get out of the campaign business and try something more appropriate to their skill level, like leaf blowing or door-to-door magazine sales.

jon1979 on October 2, 2012 at 8:52 AM

Mitt shouldn’t wait for the debates, and should pull a Washington crosses the Delaware tactic to surprise the empty chair today. Hit the empty chair with a surprise attack. Just throw a dart to pick a target.

Kissmygrits on October 2, 2012 at 9:12 AM

Matt Vespa is definitely one of HotAir’s weakest bloggers. Never mind the fact that Vespa doesn’t know how to punctuate properly and obviously hasn’t been following the Romney campaign very carefully. He totally mischaracterizes the Romney campaign, and outright lies when he says that the campaign was “silent” during the Democrat convention. Exactly the opposite was the case.

While I’m sure Romney has a few zingers up his sleeve to undercut the president’s agenda during the debates – he needs to come off, not only strong, competent, and presidential on the issues, but empathetic.

We’re approaching the finish line and if this is the best he could do – then the Republican Party needs to find a new line of work. The debates are key. It’s the avenue in which he can truly reboot his campaign and attack the president on the same stage.

Wow, Matt. That’s some seriously deep thinking you displayed there. You come up with this original material all on your own?

Seriously, this blog post of Matt Vespa’s is just one cliche after another. It sounds like he’s just repeating [dumb] things he has heard other people say.

If Obama emulates Bill Clinton’s ’92 debate moment – we’re dead.

-blogger Matt Vespa

Man up, would you?

bluegill on October 2, 2012 at 9:23 AM

Never mind the fact that Vespa doesn’t know how to punctuate properly and obviously hasn’t been following the Romney campaign very carefully.

Chillax grammar nazi
send me your assessment and i’ll post it
that is if it doesn’t totally kiss Mitt’s a**

Matt Vespa on October 2, 2012 at 9:51 AM

kisses – excuses me

Matt Vespa on October 2, 2012 at 9:52 AM

But, but…

I thought Romney was the strongest candidate we had.

I thought I was an idiot for believing that Romney would cut the throats of his fellow Republicans in the primary but handle Obama with kid gloves.

I thought Romney wasn’t weak on immigration (anyone see the ‘I won’t revoke Obama’s visas for illegals as president’ statement from Mittens?)

I thought Romney was the best debater ever. (Anyone see the moronic ‘ the debate isn’t about winning or losing’ statment from Romney?)

Romney, like most GOP, has as his strategy, not a ‘win’ strategy, but a ‘don’t lose’ strategy. And THAT’S a loser’s mentality, period.

avgjo on October 2, 2012 at 10:39 AM

Attention Matt Vespa: Shrill cries of “step it up Mitt!!” backed up with a large dose of POLITICO crap does not help the cause. Don’t be a sucker. Settle down and spend your time attacking the Democrat candidate. Thanks.

cicerone on October 2, 2012 at 11:06 AM

Attention Matt Vespa: Shrill cries of “step it up Mitt!!” backed up with a large dose of POLITICO crap does not help the cause. Don’t be a sucker. Settle down and spend your time attacking the Democrat candidate. Thanks.

cicerone on October 2, 2012 at 11:06 AM

No doubt. I do a lot of knee capping of Obama and the political left, but every now and then (which isn’t often) Politico does post material that isn’t outrageous. I’m just saying Mitt needs to quit going back and forth on message and really take it to Obama in the debates and in the remaining few days of the campaign. I already bashed Obama for not having a serious plan to tackle the deficit in a previous post

Matt Vespa on October 2, 2012 at 11:11 AM

I am fed up to the back teeth with the milquetoast acceptance of polls as evidence of a weak campaign.

When your premise is flawed, everything that follows is just noise.

Watch out Mat, your confirmation bias is showing.

Mitsouko on October 2, 2012 at 11:21 AM

This is from Breitbart today, re the swing state poll:

So, according to the Post’s front-page, above-the-fold headline, the Presidential race may be tightening nationally, but Obama has a clear lead in the battleground states. It is what they tell themselves. What they don’t tell the reader, however, is that their poll of the “key states” is built on a sub-sample of 169 people–across all the battleground states. For those keeping score at home, that’s a margin of error of 8 points.

Mitsouko on October 2, 2012 at 11:25 AM

I am fed up to the back teeth with the milquetoast acceptance of polls as evidence of a weak campaign.

I wasn’t mentioning polls, but we have to admit that Romney’s campaign, for the time being, has hit a lackadaisical slump.

Matt Vespa on October 2, 2012 at 11:49 AM

One thing I didn’t see get any mention was that the MFM has shed any facade of impartiality. They are full time paid shills for team Zero. Of course polls will be swayed by that type of coverage. Not to mention the small samples and the oversampling of Dems. Yet It’s a “statistical” dead heat. Reagan was down by 5 in “polls” and I although I didn’t follow politics back then, my guess is that people were saying much the same now as then. Yes, the base loves a fire breather. (and I admit I wish he did more hard hitting attacks) But I also think many are listening to the beltway types like George Will and Kristol. Their doom and gloom aside I still think Mitt will win with a good margin. I’m not saying there’s not room for improvement from the Romney camp, there’s plenty. But failure of the media is not Romney’s fault. but he does need to find ways to counter it. I do hope he swings for the fences in the debates. Look what happened when he made a bold choice in Ryan? Crank it up Mitt!

Minnfidel on October 2, 2012 at 12:11 PM

Good post, Matt.

As a conservative (not a Mittbot), I agree with you 110%. Romney needs to step it up. The “electability” argument we were fed during the primary is clearly a total fraud at this point.

Just wishcasting that all the polls are skewed and that Romney will eventually pull through is not going to cut it.

Norwegian on October 2, 2012 at 12:15 PM

I wasn’t mentioning polls, but we have to admit that Romney’s campaign, for the time being, has hit a lackadaisical slump.

Matt Vespa on October 2, 2012 at 11:49 AM

And what, besides your opinion and the opinion of others, is evidence of that? Surely not the enthusiastic and large crowds at his campaign events?

Mitsouko on October 2, 2012 at 12:15 PM

Norwegian on October 2, 2012 at 12:15 PM

Well, only a real conservative would know that the polls are not skewed and that Romney is not electable.

Despite evidence to the contrary.

Mitsouko on October 2, 2012 at 12:49 PM

The “electability” argument we were fed during the primary is clearly a total fraud at this point.

Norwegian on October 2, 2012 at 12:15 PM

It is of course nothing but mere speculation, but do you think that anyone would be way up against Obama at this point?

This was always going to be a 50/50 election. No matter who was running against Obama. It’s important to look at the big picture and the major trends:

2000 = 50/50 (quite literally)
2004 = 50/50
2008 = outlier
2010 = correction of outlier, back to 50/50

The pattern is ridiculously likely to hold, so we will see 2012 as another 50/50.

No other possible candidate would have been beat Obama badly.

I think we (the overly politically engaged/obsessed) live in a bubble. Just because it is obvious to us that Obama doesn’t deserve a second term, that does not mean that the entire voting population (or even a majority of it) shares our view. It’s important to keep perspective.

RightWay79 on October 2, 2012 at 12:52 PM

I wasn’t mentioning polls, but we have to admit that Romney’s campaign, for the time being, has hit a lackadaisical slump.

Matt Vespa on October 2, 2012 at 11:49 AM

I don’t know – that last Crossroads YouTube (“World”) was pretty darned good. They’re getting the hang of it.

Over 100,000 hits, with 884 likes. Not too shabby.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWnwDtc_gJw

AJsDaddie on October 2, 2012 at 1:26 PM

I think we (the overly politically engaged/obsessed) live in a bubble. Just because it is obvious to us that Obama doesn’t deserve a second term, that does not mean that the entire voting population (or even a majority of it) shares our view. It’s important to keep perspective.

RightWay79 on October 2, 2012 at 12:52 PM

I know it. AJsUncle is a very smart, very hardworking guy. Smarter than I am, built two businesses on his own, the second of which got destroyed in the 2008 meltdown. Unfortunately, nothing I can say penetrates the “BOOOOOSH’S FAULT” bubble.

But I’ll keep trying. That’s my personal goal – to turn our cancelling votes into two votes for Romney. And that’s the perspective we need: try to talk to one intelligent person and change their thinking. And of course, get out and vote. AJ and I will be at our polling place bright and early on Nov. 6th. AJ’s going to have “voting as a duty” in his DNA by the time he’s old enough to vote.

AJsDaddie on October 2, 2012 at 1:32 PM

I know it. AJsUncle is a very smart, very hardworking guy. Smarter than I am, built two businesses on his own, the second of which got destroyed in the 2008 meltdown. Unfortunately, nothing I can say penetrates the “BOOOOOSH’S FAULT” bubble.

But I’ll keep trying. That’s my personal goal – to turn our cancelling votes into two votes for Romney. And that’s the perspective we need: try to talk to one intelligent person and change their thinking. And of course, get out and vote. AJ and I will be at our polling place bright and early on Nov. 6th. AJ’s going to have “voting as a duty” in his DNA by the time he’s old enough to vote.

AJsDaddie on October 2, 2012 at 1:32 PM

HotAir needs a ‘Like’ button. ;-)

I guess it boils down to differing methods… but my preference is to shun the “The Other Side is EEEVVVIILLL….and STOOOOOPID…. and…um…. UUGGGGGLLLY too” approach.

A candidate spewing fire is just preaching to the choir. Hmmm…can I trademark that?

Such a candidate will win some or lose some elections… but in the long run will do nothing but poison his “side’s” ability to win converts.

RightWay79 on October 2, 2012 at 1:42 PM

Such a candidate will win some or lose some elections… but in the long run will do nothing but poison his “side’s” ability to win converts.

RightWay79 on October 2, 2012 at 1:42 PM

In the end, we need to solve these problems together. I want the 47% to stop being the 47% and start contributing to their own prosperity. More importantly, I want them to WANT to do it – I want them to believe that this isn’t a zero-sum game, and that we can all gain together. A rising tide lifts all boats, and right now our tide is falling fast.

Do I think Romney is the perfect candidate? Nah. But neither was Bush, elder or younger. Not even Ronaldus Maximus was perfect. But American exceptionalism is the answer, and Romney believes in that – and Obama does not.

So it’s time to get the best we’ve got into the White House and then look to the future.

Thirty five days.

AJsDaddie on October 2, 2012 at 1:49 PM

Thanks guys!
The Republican Eeyore-ism just sucks the fun and energy right out of any discussion. Happy Warriors are the most effective.

Mitsouko on October 2, 2012 at 2:00 PM

Good post, Matt.
As a conservative (not a Mittbot), I agree with you 110%. Romney needs to step it up. Norwegian on October 2, 2012 at 12:15 PM

Thanks Norwegian!

Matt Vespa on October 2, 2012 at 7:02 PM

Just a general (and off-topic) note:

Matt,

You get a LOT of flack from people here… some of it contructive criticism, and some of it not so much.

I just wanted to commend you for seeming to take everything in stride.

As far as I have seen, you haven’t taken offence to anything and have offered to clarify things here and there that commenters have had problems with.

I will be pefectly honest in saying that I usually don’t agree with your commentary/conclusions… but, I appreciate your adding to the conversation.

RightWay79 on October 3, 2012 at 12:03 PM

contructive = constructive

RightWay79 on October 3, 2012 at 12:03 PM

I just wanted to commend you for seeming to take everything in stride.

As far as I have seen, you haven’t taken offence to anything and have offered to clarify things here and there that commenters have had problems with.

I will be pefectly honest in saying that I usually don’t agree with your commentary/conclusions… but, I appreciate your adding to the conversation. RightWay79 on October 3, 2012 at 12:03 PM

Thanks RightWay – I appreciate it. Unlike what some in the media say, we’re a big tent filled with opposing views and ideas.
I appreciate that you read an opposing view and I don’t take sharp criticism or, in this case, insults personally. As Justice Scalia says “I attack people, not ideas – and sometimes very good people have very bad ideas.”

Thanks again for reading.

Matt Vespa on October 3, 2012 at 2:07 PM