Romney should focus campaign’s message

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There are just over five weeks before the election, and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has not been doing well. A recent Washington Post poll shows that he is six points behind President Barack Obama among registered voters. Prediction market website puts Romney’s chances at around 22 percent to Obama’s 77 percent. Furthermore, a new Quinnpiac University poll shows Obama in the lead in Florida and Ohio, two key battleground states.

How did Romney end up so behind?

After all, just a few months ago, things were not looking too good for Obama. His campaign was struggling to create a coherent narrative of why Americans should renew hope and change — the economy had not recovered as it should have, most of Obama’s campaign promises had gone unfulfilled, and the debt situation was worse than ever.

However, the Obama campaign staff has gotten its act together over the past few months.

They have a clear message: Despite the immense difficulties of the last four years, Obama has accomplished a lot. Vote for him and he’ll continue the good fight.
That message is a huge contrast to Romney’s, whose campaign is still flustered in self-contradictions and vague policy proposals.

Rather than presenting a concise, guiding vision, Romney’s campaign has merely tried to avoid conflicts with any particular group, as exemplified in his economic policy. Not only does he promise to reduce the budget deficit to appease the deficit hawks, but he also plans to do it without raising taxes.

Of course, there will have to be cuts in spending and deductions, but Romney has yet to specify which programs he will cut and how much. Overall, the plan is unworkable, opaque, and politically shifty.

The same goes for Romney’s other positions; where they haven’t changed completely, they are terribly vague. He disapproves of Obamacare, but is proud of the Massachusetts plan it was based upon, the very plan he signed into law. On 60 Minutes, he chastised Obama for having cut $716 billion to Medicare, despite the fact that he chose a running mate whose budget plan included those same cuts. The most cohesive part of Romney’s message is, “I don’t like Obama.” Unfortunately, Romney cannot rely on voters’ dislike of Obama alone; he needs to convince the public that he is actually a better alternative.

Americans will be reluctant to trade in their old car if the alternative is just another car of the same quality, but entirely unfamiliar. Technically speaking, Romney should have an advantage: The election is still operating under an anti-incumbent environment. According to Gallup, 54 percent of Americans believe that the economy is getting worse, and RealClearPolitics, a polling aggregator, shows that 56 percent believe that the country is headed in the wrong direction.

With less than 40 days before the election, however, and a recent string of gaffes that have made members of his own party cringe, the window of time has diminished significantly for Romney and his campaign. One thing is certain, however. These last few weeks before the election will be crucial for both campaigns.