I know the Obama campaign isn't getting cocky about having it in the bad. Nor should any of his supporters. Romney is about to release the Koch-and-Adelson-funded Death Star on Obama and the Democrats which will attempt to poison the well of democracy and get as many non-wealthy voters as possible to just see the campaign as an ugly mess and stay home. All this stuff about Romney's campaign in disarray and verging on collapse... as factually correct as it may be, it doesn't matter once Rove kicks in his onslaught of nonstop garbage. Every single ad spot in key markets (like Orlando, for example) has been bought up-- TV, radio, even Google!
The election ends 7 weeks from today and Romney still appears to be stumbling around trying desperately to ?switch from a primary mind-set to a general-election mind-set, and... come up with a compelling, policy-backed argument for credible change.? What looks like a rudderless, badly managed campaign-- CEO types like Romney aren't necessarily great managers, just lucky duckies with big payrolls to hire excellent people-- is getting advice, and demands, from every end of the Republican pup tent, i.e., the Tea Party, the religionist psychopaths, Fox and Hate Talk Radio and Wall Street. The loudest, nastiest and most threatening voices are insisting he isn't catering to the base enough. And those are the voices the hapless campaign is starting to listen to. The more mainstream voices urging him to move to the mainstream are completely drowned out, although Romney staffers claim that their ads will start focusing less on Obama and more on Romney's vision. But, as Greg Sargent pointed out in the Washington Post yesterday, "If Romney detailed his economic agenda a bit more clearly, economists might more convincingly point out that it would do little to fix the short term crisis. If Romney detailed how he?d deeply cut spending, or which loopholes and deductions he would eliminate to pay for tax cuts that would enormously benefit the rich, the public might recoil. As Jonathan Cohn put it recently: 'Specifics may not help Romney politically. If anything, they may hurt'.? Sort of like releasing his tax returns.
Three Romney advisers told BuzzFeed the campaign's top priority now is to rally conservative Republicans, in hopes that they'll show up on Election Day, and drag their less politically-engaged friends with them. The earliest, ambiguous signal of this turn toward the party's right was the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as Romney's running mate, a top Romney aide said.
"This is going to be a base election, and we need them to come out to vote," the aide said, explaining the pick.
Another adviser, who also discussed strategy on the condition of anonymity, described the campaign's key targets as Republican activists: "The people who are going to talk to their neighbors, drive them to the polls on Election Day, and hold their hands on the way in to vote."
...Nationally, the Romney is running the campaign his Boston team has claimed to be running all along: a conservative businessman, wielding a laser-like focus on unemployment, and a promise to bring the American economy roaring back with a five-step plan. It's a message the punditocracy approves of, and the Republican establishment is comfortable with. It's also the message that helped Romney win the fundraising war over the summer, with wealthy business leaders eager to write checks for one of their own.
But last week, Romney's stump speech-- once an unchanging recitation of the campaign's economic talking points that clocked in reliably at 18 to 20 minutes every time-- was in a constant state of flux, with the candidate tailoring his remarks to elicit as many applause lines as possible from the partisans in the room.
In heavily-Evangelical Sioux County, Iowa, Romney's introductory speakers-- including conservative Rep. Steve King-- sermonized at length about keeping Christian values, and vouched for his love of Jesus Christ. In Virginia Beach, he spoke to a flag-waving crowd of veterans and military families-- appearing alongside televangelist Pat Robertson-- and built his remarks around patriotism, defense spending, and keeping God on the national currency.
In his prime time speech introducing Romney on the last night of the Republican convention, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said his party didn't think Obama was a bad guy, just "a bad president"-- a sentiment echoed in the nominee's relatively tame remarks.
But Romney has since dropped that line from his stump speech, and on the ground, he typically uses much harsher terms to describe the president.
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."
That leaves Romney to spend most of his time on the trail delivering narrowly-focused messages meant to excite conservatives who weren't always behind him in the Republican primaries. (Ironically, what eventually won many of them over was Romney's argument that he would be the best candidate to win over moderate voters who traditionally decide the election.
It has transformed Romney's road show from an almost robotic speech into a sometimes-passionate, and often unpredictable, partisan appeal. Like an unassuming deli with an underground blackjack room in back, the Romney campaign's message looks presentable, if a bit dull, to the casual observer-- but spend some time inside, and you'll find the edge.
Where are the best voices, and why are they not day in and day out coordinating on a single message? John Bolton on foreign policy. New Gingrich on radical jihadism. Paul Ryan on anything. John Sununu on Obama criticism. They are all top-flight and too rarely seen. Week by week and day by day, the campaign lacks a coordinated and consistent message presented by the most forceful advocates. Put the policy people out to explain policy. Let the Obama team put out the hacks.
Team Romney seems so scared of being more unliked than he is already is that they refuse to actually pound a consistent, hard hitting message. Negatives be damned, his message is too muddled for voters to be anything other than confused. Voters have been subjected to two straight Presidential campaign seasons where Romney?s opponents have hit him for being inconsistent and now he is ? well ? too muddled up to look consistent. If you are going to beat the incumbent, you must convince voters you?ll be a steady, consistent hand or they really will go with the status quo knowing at least they can plan around the guy they already know.