Team Romney has a fevah — and the only prescription is More Romney, Politico reports. After getting stung by a video of his talk to donors at a May fundraiser, the Romney campaign has decided that they have to get Mitt Romney out in front of people more often, and tell more of his story:
After taking a beating for comments he privately wishes he never made and from conservative critics he wishes he could muzzle, Mitt Romney and his campaign are settling on a rescue plan to show more of him – in ads, speeches and campaign appearances. A big focus, according to campaign officials, will be on Romney talking a lot more about how his ideas will help regular Americans who remain deeply suspicious of him.
The aim: Switch the emphasis from Washington policies to personal pocketbooks. Look for a heavy emphasis on jobs and specific ways to cut government spending.
“He has to own his message for people, especially women, to buy the messenger,” one top adviser said.
A campaign official said: “In a lot of the current survey data, there’s a desire among the electorate to know more about Mitt in terms of how he would lead. Over the next six weeks, the campaign is going to provide a lot more of that.”
Take this one with a grain of salt; it’s at least the fourth media narrative about the Romney campaign this week. Like the Washington Post’s, though, this has the ring of the blindingly obvious about it. One of the reasons that the Mother Jones video stung Romney is that it played into public perception of Romney as aloof and somewhat mysterious, even though Romney’s one of the most well-known figures in presidential politics over the last two cycles. The final eight weeks of any election has to feature the candidate on both a personal and policy level. The personal level, furthermore, has to relate to both candidate and voter.
Romney has a big money advantage, which means he can blanket the airwaves with personal messaging over the heads of the media. His task, as I write in my column today for The Fiscal Times, is not just to introduce himself, but also to set the stakes for the election. While those stakes have to involve the immediate circumstances of the individual voter — primarily on economics — Romney needs a narrative to explain the philosophical differences between the failed Obama approach and his proposals. Even the Mother Jones video can be put to that use:
On Wednesday, Romney wrote an essay for USA Today presenting his approach on economic growth in a more elegant form. “My course for the American economy will encourage private investment and personal freedom,” Romney pledged. “Instead of creating a web of dependency, I will pursue policies that grow our economy and lift Americans out of poverty.” He acknowledged that government had a role to play in the crisis, but that Obama’s policies had produced “a stagnant economy that fosters government dependency. … Unemployment has been above 8 percent for 43 straight months; 47 million Americans are on food stamps. Nearly one in six Americans now live in poverty.”
Romney seems intent on clarifying the economic argument on a broad and philosophical basis, rather than stay content to argue over details. Obama now has the same opportunity. The day after the release of the Romney tape, audio from a 1998 appearance by Obama at Loyola University surfaced in which Obama discussed his support for government redistribution. “I think the trick is how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution,” Obama said, “because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level, to make sure that everybody’s got a shot.”
Rather than embrace this statement, as Romney did his, the Obama campaign sought to distance themselves from it, insisting that it just referred to city government – even though Obama was at the time a state Senator. Compare this to Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic national convention, though, which promoted his policy that “asks the wealthiest households to pay higher taxes on incomes,” in order to restore an America where “everyone gets a fair shot and everyone does their fair share.” That sounds a lot like the redistribution Obama supported in 1998, right down to the same applause lines.
Romney has to force Obama to explain the failed outcomes of his policies:
The stimulus bill spent $800 billion in borrowed money, which arguably has been redistributed from future generations that have to repay that debt, as the Obama administration and a Democratic Congress added mountains of new regulation aimed specifically at businesses and investors to achieve “fairness” in health care and credit distribution.
Instead of touching off a boom in economic growth and job creation, we have seen the civilian labor participation rate hit its worst level since 1981 as workers fall out of the workforce. Both the median household income and hourly earnings have dropped faster during the Obama recovery than it did during the recession that preceded it.
Census Bureau data shows that start-up jobs per 1,000 Americans during the Obama administration have fallen far below the level seen in the last 25 years, a sign of deep trouble in the engine of the US economy. In almost every measure, we’re not just treading water in a stagnant redistributionist economy – we are actively falling behind.
That’s the message Romney needs to deliver, and convince people that he can fix the damage done from the last six years and put the country back on track for prosperity. The time for surrogates to make that pitch is over, and Romney now has to ride that money advantage to domination in personal messaging.
Update: I missed a couple of opportunities to highlight Bill Whittle’s excellent new Firewall video, “Number Six.” Redistributionism is essentially the politics of envy, which features heavily in Obama’s “fairness” policies that have killed the normal recovery process over the last three years. Bill provides support for Romney’s original contention, and explains why this will always fail to deliver prosperity — or real fairness: