‘Fundamentals’ Strategy Is Failing

by Mona Charen

A somewhat desperate and bull’s eye column from Kimberly Strassel today about why Romney is fading. The confident, make-this-election-about-big-things mood that prevailed briefly after the Ryan pick is gone. In its place is the stolid, risk-averse strategy that characterized Romney before. Strassel writes:

Credit for this fog goes to that inner circle of Romney advisers who never liked the Ryan pick and have reasserted their will over a candidate who is naturally cautious. In the la-la land where adviser Stuart Stevens presides, Mr. Romney wins by never saying a single thing, ever, that might rock a single boat, ever. Just keep the focus on Mr. Obama. After all, no president has ever won with an economy like this.

One problem: Mr. Obama is winning. The August unemployment numbers are horrid; the president increases his national lead. Labor-force participation hits a 31-year low; Mr. Obama moves up in swing states. Prices spike; the president takes Michigan out of contention. No doubt Part 39 of the Romney attack on Mr. Obama’s welfare policies will propel the Republican to a blazing lead. Though, failing that, Mr. Romney might consider that the pure referendum strategy is a bust. 

For those who believed that voters simply needed to learn more about what an extraordinarily caring man Romney is (and he is) in order to overcome their reluctance to support him, the Tampa convention should be sobering. No bounce. 

The Obama team, by contrast, did connect with voters in Charlotte. It wasn’t the dull, same old speech by Obama. It was all Clinton. And Clinton succeeded because he made arguments. They were mostly lies. But making arguments is key to success. (Reminds me of the old Adlai Stevenson line: “If my opponents will stop telling lies about me, I’ll stop telling the truth about them.”)

Romney must trust the voters enough to make arguments. He needs to explain what caused the financial collapse, and what is holding the economy back now. Obamacare is already highly unpopular. Just fill in the blanks about the way it inhibits hiring. At thousands of pages, with so many added taxes, and with so much discretion left in the hands of bureaucrats (“the secretary shall”), businesses and individuals have no idea what the ultimate costs will be. Repealing and replacing Obamacare with something simple and market-oriented would be the first big jobs act of a Romney presidency.

Then talk about tax reform, etc. Read the whole Strassel column.