Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is promising to become more media-friendly after headlines during the Republican candidate's weeklong foreign trip highlighted an increasingly fractious relationship with the press.
Fewer than 100 days out from the election, the campaign is expected to provide more press briefings and heightened access to the candidate in the coming days, and to make changes to the travel pool that will make it more media friendly.
The changes would represent a major shift for the Romney campaign, which so far has offered only extremely limited access to the presumptive Republican nominee, and usually only to favored outlets like Fox News.
"I realize that there will be some in the Fourth Estate or in whichever estate who are far more interested in finding something to write about that is unrelated to the economy, to geopolitics, to the threat of war, to the reality of conflict in Afghanistan today, to a nuclearization of Iran,” Romney told Fox News. “They'll instead try to find anything else to divert from the fact that these last four years have been tough years for our country.” Republicans sometimes find it useful to run against the media.
“It helps him with the conservative base because the conservative base, much like the far-left, is extremely distrustful of the media,” said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.
But the comments from the Romney aide promising more access suggest the campaign realizes it needs a better relationship with the reporters covering it in order to win come November.
Read more from Amie Parnes and Justin Sink at The Hill
First, the bad news for Mitt Romney: What should have been an easy, photo-op-driven trip abroad by the presumptive Republican presidential nominee was marred by gaffes and other miscues – culminating in a press aide’s off-color admonition to pushy reporters.
The good news is that these are the dog days of summer, and most voters aren’t paying attention – especially the swing voters who will decide the election. It’s also good for Mr. Romney that foreign policy barely registers as a voter concern. President Obama already wins that issue in polls.
Still, in traveling to London, Israel, and Poland over the past week, Romney was hoping to build up a thin aspect of his résumé, foreign-policy experience. He did deliver some well-received speeches, interact with foreign leaders, raise campaign cash from Americans abroad, and get the requisite footage of himself on the world stage.
And as painful as some of the moments may have been for Romney, with a news-hungry press corps ready to pounce on every ill-chosen word, the trip could end up being a valuable learning experience, analysts say.
“You can’t hope for the best, you have to prepare for the worst,” says Ford O’Connell, head of the conservative Civic Forum PAC. “I don’t know if they recognized the level of scrutiny they’d be under. We’re in a global economy, we’re in a global press.”
Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor
I am not holding my breath for specifics from Team Obama. That said, Romney would be wise to beat Obama to the punch with regard to the future. ABC News' Devin Dwyer has more:
President Obama tonight hinted that his re-election campaign will transition to a more positive and forward-looking message by the end of next month and into the fall.
Obama has faced criticism from some members of his party and key constituencies for not laying out clearly enough what his priorities will be if he’s re-elected. He has also taken heat for running a predominantly negative, anti-Romney TV ad campaign in battleground states.
“There is going to be, though, as the summer winds down and we get into the fall, the need for voters in these swing states to know not just what they’re voting against but also what they’re voting for,” [Obama] said. “And so we’ll be spending a lot of time talking about the specific agenda that I intend to pursue in the second term, which I think will make sure that this economy is going full guns.
From Jeffrey M. Jones at Gallup:
Creating good jobs, reducing corruption in the federal government, and reducing the federal budget deficit score highest when Americans rate 12 issues as priorities for the next president to address. Americans assign much less importance to increasing taxes on wealthy Americans and dealing with environmental concerns.
The candidate who Americans think has the better plans on each of these issues will have an advantage. As of now, Americans believe Romney is better able to handle jobs and the deficit than Obama is.
Keep an eye on early voting. From Naureen Khan at The NationalJournal:
Political junkies and undecided voters may have Nov. 6 circled on their calendars in red ink, but in reality, the 2012 election is not 99 days away. Early voting will start as soon as September in some states.
From in-person at designated polling places to absentee that requires no justification, early voting is becoming increasingly popular and accessible across the country. Election experts estimate that a record 40 percent of 2012 voters could cast their ballots before Election Day, up from 33 percent in 2008. Both campaigns eyeing a jubilant November are taking note.
The Obama campaign has some practice in this arena. With significantly more resources at its disposal than rival John McCain in 2008, it made banking early votes a top priority and deployed some smart campaign tactics to that end. Of those who cast early ballots in 2008, 58 percent favored Obama, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken just before Election Day, versus McCain’s 40 percent.
In 2012, voters will be able to cast their ballots early in person in 32 states, while 27 will offer no-excuse absentee voting. Election calendars are still being finalized, but if states hew to their schedules from 2010, some could begin voting as early as mid-September. By the end of that month, voters in the key swing state of will be casting early ballots.
Don’t expect the Romney campaign to be nearly as outgunned as McCain was four years ago. “It’s not clear that it advantages either party as a partisan thing per se,” said political scientist Christopher Mann of the University of Miami, a former Democratic consultant. “It advantages the party that is more organized and more committed to taking advantage of the alternative methods of voting available.”
A former House Republican lawmaker could siphon votes from Mitt Romney in the battleground state of Virginia and boost President Obama’s chances of winning a second term.
Former five-term Rep. Virgil Goode, who represented southwest Virginia’s 5th District, has a strong chance of making it on the state’s general election ballot. That would set up a potential Ralph Nader-like spoiler scenario circa 2000.
At that time, then-Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic presidential nominee, lost the state of Florida by fewer than 600 votes to former President George W. Bush. Nader, a liberal third-party candidate, won nearly 100,000 votes in the Sunshine State.
A similar scenario could play out in Virginia if Goode’s name appears on the ballot in November, according to a recent poll.
According to a Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey of Virginia voters, Goode would win 9 percent of the vote, with Romney winning 35 percent to Obama’s 49 percent, with a margin of error of 3.9 percent.
“Goode is a household name in the 5th district, and could be Romney’s worst nightmare if he qualifies for the ballot,” GOP political operative Ford O’Connell told The Hill.
After all, O’Connell says, “for Obama, Virginia is not a must. But for Romney, it is a must have in terms of winning the White House.”
Read more from Molly K. Hooper at The Hill
Mitt Romney has spent much of this year’s campaign attacking President Obama’s economic record and attitude toward small businesses, but many in his party are beginning to warn him that he will have to focus more on his own qualifications to win this fall.
The presumptive GOP presidential nominee largely has followed the playbook of past challengers, framing the 2012 election as a referendum on the sitting president and happily chopping away at Mr. Obama’s policies while avoiding taking a stand on thorny questions himself — such as immigration and women’s pay.
But in recent weeks, as Obama campaign attacks over his time at Bain Capital and questions about his tax records have mounted, Mr. Romneyis increasingly facing calls from his own party to tell a better story about himself and his vision for the country.
“He would be best served to do two things: One is beefing up his personal narrative and the other is talking about the future,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “People don’t really care about the blame game. They’ve got it.”
On Wednesday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Mr. Romney should break the negative campaign cycle and go positive by telling voters of his own business success and his gubernatorial record.
The Romney campaign is grappling with its path moving forward, and some outside strategists said he should highlight his biography more.
Mr. O’Connell said Mr. Romney has a golden opportunity during the London Olympics to remind voters that he turned around the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, which had been beset by corruption and cost overruns before he took over as CEO.
Read more from David Hill at The Washington Times
It's not worrrrrrrking.
Mitt Romney's strategy to topple President Barack Obama has been to make the race a referendum on the president's record. It's a reasonable approach—the president has failed to turn around the economy, build support for his healthcare legislation, or end Washington gridlock.
But Romney has gone about as far on this strategy as he can go. Polls have remained amazingly consistent for weeks. Not even the president's "You didn't build that" gaffe in Roanoke—or his clumsy attempt to clean it up—have moved the needle. Taken out of context? Ha. Charles Krauthammer is right. Let's run that speech on an endless loop right through Election Day. Americans need to understand precisely the context of those remarks.
All that's left for Romney is to tell voters more about himself. He doesn't talk about his many charitable acts because he wants the credit for those to come from God, not the electorate. Fine. He avoids discussing his Mormon faith to shield himself and his church from uncomfortable scrutiny. Fine again.
He doesn't want to discuss his time as governor of Massachusetts because then he'll have to explain the differences between his healthcare plan and ObamaCare. That can wait until the presidential debates.
But what he can discuss, what he absolutely must discuss, what the timing could not be more perfect to discuss, is his time as head of the Salt Lake Olympics.
The time to go for the gold is now. Obama's approval rating among undecideds is in the low 20s. Persuadable voters are looking for a reason to support Romney. He's unlikely to come across a better one between now and November.
Read more from Ford O'Connell at U.S. News & World Report
For all the drama that surrounded the Republican primary season, the convention to formally nominate Mitt Romney as the party's candidate for president is likely to be suspense-free.
Well, maybe not completely.
Aside from Romney's coronation, the August 27-30 convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum will host another show: Ron Paul's farewell.
The 76-year-old representative from Texas will retire from Congress after November's elections, capping a long and colorful career. He is looking to take some of the limelight away from his former rival in the primaries.
Paul's followers - a small but intensely loyal band - have been collecting small packs of delegates from across the country since the congressman stopped campaigning in May, and they plan to be a forceful voice in Tampa.
Perhaps as many as 500 delegates out of the 2,286 total at the gathering will be Paul loyalists, keen to see the Republican Party accept his message of radically shrinking government onto its convention platform.
This has some Republicans worried that Paul and his often noisy supporters could upstage Romney and interrupt the tightly choreographed convention, just as the party needs to close ranks ahead of a tough fight against President Barack Obama and the Democrats at the November 6 elections.
"If I were Romney, I'd prepare for the worst," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said. Although he has almost no chance of winning the nomination, Paul is Romney's only Republican rival who has not withdrawn from the presidential race, and he refused last week to endorse Romney.
Giving Paul's fans some room could be a wise strategic move for Romney, O'Connell said.
"Romney has to take a very Machiavellian approach," he explained. "He wants to keep his friends - his supporters - close, and his potential enemies - Paul supporters - even closer."
Read more from Gabriel Debenedetti at Reuters
President Obama’s campaign scrambled to combat Republican efforts to highlight his “you didn’t build that” remark — a sign there are concerns the story could have legs far into the election cycle.
Team Obama released a new television ad late Tuesday with the president himself directly addressing the controversy. And the Democratic National Committee circulated a memo Wednesday detailing how it would respond to the GOP messaging.
The actions indicate Democrats are concerned the remark could haunt the campaign, especially given the persistent GOP strikes at Obama’s handling of the economy. Republicans have repeatedly knocked the president for not understanding the private sector, and their attacks have been amplified by criticism from business leaders, who were unhappy with Obama’s comment.
“Obama did for Romney what Romney couldn’t do for himself, which is to create a clear contrast and unlock emotions on the key issue of the campaign,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “It helps Romney with independents, with GOPers and with white, working-class Democrats who needed an economic message that they could rally around.”
Republicans are clearly enjoying the Democrats’ discomfort.
“This is something that can keep the base fired up at least until the convention, and maybe longer,” said O’Connell. “We’re in the dog days of summer, and you need something that can harness supporters in a concentrated way. The Obama team is smart, instead of arguing about it, to try to get out there and fight back, but it’s going to carry for awhile.”
Read more from Justin Sink at The Hill