On a variety of other policy issues, Romney will continue to pick his spots. When he addressed the NAACP convention in Houston, for example, he took care to highlight education, and pledged to give federal support to charter schools. But these issues will not be his main thrust.
With Romney sticking to the economy on the trail, surrogates such as Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget Committee chairman, and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty will be frequently tapped to present Romney’s views, advisers add.
“He doesn’t need to lay out new policies,” Ryan says. “It’s simply about getting up there and offering a vision, emphasizing the choice between two futures. It’s a counter-narrative, a myth of sorts, that [Romney] hasn’t been specific enough.”
But other conservative observers maintain that Romney must do more. Alex Brill, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute, tells NRO that Romney is hitting the right notes, but he may have to detail more of his economic agenda near the convention.
“At some point between now and the election, he’ll need to have an additional round of policy details,” Brill says. “He’s going to need to start to define how he’s different and better by being a little more concrete, thinking about the near and long term simultaneously — creating confidence in the economy and stability in fiscal policy.”
For much of July, the Romney campaign has blasted President Obama’s controversial “you didn’t build that” remarks about the government’s role in supporting private enterprise. The next step, an adviser says, includes mixing solutions with the outrage.
In essence, after his messaging on a foreign-policy trip met a mixed reception, Romney will return to what his campaign considers his wheelhouse, with the economy at the forefront of his campaign. Friday’s potentially dismal July jobs report will play a part in teeing up the candidate’s August emphasis.
On taxes, it has been months since Romney released his tax-cut plan during the primary. The proposal, which would reduce every individual tax rate by 20 percent, lowering the top rate to 28 percent, was met with much applause from the Right. But it has gathered dust.
In the coming weeks, Romney will remind voters about his plan to cut rates, and his openness to getting rid of certain deductions, sources say. Yet around Romney World, there is a general sense that Romney doesn’t need to change his platform.
“The American public is fired up about the incompetence of the president on the economy,” says former Minnesota senator Norm Coleman, a Romney adviser. “People look at Romney’s 25 years in the private sector and know that he gets it. I don’t understand the angst about his vision. He has been bold and clear on his policies.”
So across the board, the recalibration will be slight. As the campaign heats up, the changes will be more in tone. Romney’s stump speech may include more data than usual, enabling the former consultant to solidify his critique of the president.
“This campaign has a calendar in its head about what it should do and when,” says former New Hampshire governor John Sununu, a Romney adviser. “This is an excellent time for him to talk about economic policy, since people are starting to pay attention.”
— Robert Costa is a political reporter for National Review.