Commentary

Black September, campaign stagnation, convention letdown

POSTED AT 07:08 PM ON Sep. 19, 2012 

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With President Barack Obama gaining ground in several key states, unease about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s position is spreading among GOP supporters.

Part of Obama’s lead is a standard post-convention bounce, a typicality that unfortunately didn’t really occur for Romney after the GOP convention earlier this month.

But it isn’t just poll numbers that have some in the GOP camp concerned.

Politico, quickly followed by other news sources, has released several articles this week criticizing Stuart Stevens, Romney’s top strategist, a man almost always tagged with the qualifier “eclectic.” The prominent Politico article detailed a last minute convention speech switch that left viewers underwhelmed.

It also covered the unfortunate Clint Eastwood chair skit, which Pew pollsters found many considered the highlight of the convention, particularly among independents and casual viewers, the people conventions are typically hoping to appeal to.

Thus far in the race, Stevens, Romney’s staff and the candidate himself have preached one strategy: stay focused on the economy and the negatives of Obama.

Now, they are being criticized for not saying enough about specific Romney policies or positive attributes. It’s not just opponents, but the Republican base that is once again beginning to grumble.

Stevens has now announced that Romney will be changing up his
strategy.

Given the amount of unrest in the Middle East and criticisms concerning lack of detail, Romney’s campaign will now focus on “status quo versus change.”

Although the economy will remain the focus, Romney’s camp will make a concerted enough effort to address foreign policy, the threat of nations like China and the negative tone in Washington.

Economic stagnation and protests in the Middle East may help the GOP regain footing.

On the other hand, neither Romney nor Ryan has extensive foreign policy credentials and Romney’s foreign forays so far have resulted in several embarrassing verbal gaffes.

A recent CBS poll found that voters trust Obama more to handle an international crisis.

Although Romney’s camp has shown it is sensitive to its stagnating poll numbers and criticisms, their current position is not unique, perhaps providing a bit of relief for concerned Republicans.

Mark McKinnon, former President George W. Bush’s chief media strategist said the Bush campaign had a similar period, calling “it Black September. Everything went to [pieces]...It’s eerily similar.”

Obama’s campaign also drew fire after the conventions in 2008 while Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., temporarily leaped ahead with vice presidential pick Sarah Palin.
The damage that the Romney campaign is taking right now may be a normal September swoon.

Despite assurances by Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s that “everybody knows” Romney is not going to be the next POTUS, the poll numbers are still too close and the election is too far out for anyone to determine definitely who will be the victor.

Much will depend on the continuing economic reports and events in the Middle East.
Romney and his supporters will have to wait and see if he is able to find more success with his new campaign strategy.

­— gwinslow@indiana.edu

 

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