NBC’s crack First Thoughts team says it picked up notable signs yesterday that after a disastrous three weeks where his campaign is posed on becoming locked into the narrative as a campaign inexorably heading to a)defeat b)hurt other Republicans running for congress Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney may be moving quickly to resurrect parts of the more moderate Romney of 2004:
*** A more moderate Mitt returns? After originally standing by his comments at that May fundraiser in Florida, where he was surreptitiously recorded saying that he can’t win the “47%” of Americans who are dependent on the government, Romney backed down last night. “This is a campaign about the 100%,” he said at a forum in Miami sponsored by Univision, per NBC’s Garrett Haake. But Romney did more than back down from those 47% remarks; he also softened his tone on health care, immigration, and gay rights. “Now and then the president says I’m the grandfather of Obamacare. I don’t think he meant that as a compliment, but I’ll take it,” he said, going on to praise the Massachusetts law. He also clarified his earlier remarks on self-deportation. “I said I’m not in favor of a deportation, a mass deportation effort rounding up 12 million people and kicking them out of the country,” he said. “I believe people make their own choices as to whether they want to go home, and that’s what I mean by self-deportation. And he added this about gay marriage: “I would like to have the term marriage continue to be associated with a relationship between one man and one woman, and that certainly doesn’t prevent two people of the same gender living in a loving relationship together having gay domestic partnership, if you will.”
The signs are all there: Romney is finally doing what the vast majority of Presidential candidates do (if they want to win): he is inching to the center, which may mean he’ll wind up close to a Jeb Bush sounding Republican who takes wise political advice from the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan, rather than someone who is literally taking his strategical and polemical marching orders from Rush Limbaugh.
On several occasions during this campaign, if you listened to Limbaugh nudging on Romney you could almost predict almost precisely what the Romney campaign would do next.
But now the question becomes: will Rush and the conservative base let him move towards the center if that’s what he is indeed trying to do? First Read again:
*** How will conservatives react? Last night was the candidate many of us expected to start seeing in June or July, not in September — it was the Romney of 2004. And on health care, we have seen Romney make moderate-sounding remarks on the subject, but then he’s had to walk them back after receiving criticism from conservatives. That’s the thing to watch today: Will we see any conservative blowback about Romney’s comments last night? Or will conservatives cut him slack for the first time this campaign because he’s on the ropes? We know the campaign is exhausted from litigating every little thing with their conservative critics, especially since it believes it’s running a more ideologically conservative campaign than any Republican in a generation.
And if Romney seems to be running for fundraiser or President of The Base during this campaign more than President of the United States The Politico says that is about to change as the Romney campaign his a Reset button about to break from overuse:
After taking a beating for comments he privately wishes he never made and from conservative critics he wishes he could muzzle, Mitt Romney and his campaign are settling on a rescue plan to show more of him — in ads, speeches and campaign appearances. A big focus, according to campaign officials, will be on Romney talking a lot more about how his ideas will help regular Americans who remain deeply suspicious of him
The aim: Switch the emphasis from Washington policies to personal pocketbooks. Look for a heavy emphasis on jobs and specific ways to cut government spending.
“He has to own his message for people, especially women, to buy the messenger,” one top adviser said.
A campaign official said: “In a lot of the current survey data, there’s a desire among the electorate to know more about Mitt in terms of how he would lead. Over the next six weeks, the campaign is going to provide a lot more of that.”
Aides also expect more joint appearances by Romney and running mate Paul Ryan – most likely in the swing states of Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.
The plan, described by top aides and advisers in interviews this week, is an acknowledgment that Romney is in enough of a hole that he cannot depend on the presidential debates to turn his candidacy around. In fact, Romney, who recently did five mock debates in a 48-hour period to practice, has confided to advisers that it may be hard to win a debate because every attack against President Barack Obama will seem stale while the attacks on him will seem fresher and newsier to a hostile media.
Instead, Romney plans to dial back on fundraisers and vastly increase his personal appearances — on the stump and in ads — to convince what’s left of the undecided voters that Obama has been a disappointment and that he has a specific plan that is less risky than the status quo.
Rather than talk about the broader economy, Romney will increasingly talk about his plans in terms of the effect on families, the aides said.
The big question then will be become: will to see more of Mitt Romney be to love him?
Prediction: Get ready for an utter deluge of GOP, Super PAC and Romney ads against Obama following the first debate, including ads framing the debate as a victory for Romney, no matter how he actually does. Romney’s whole modus operendi in the debates was a Shock & Awe of negative ads that totally overwhelmed and foes. But will this work this time? There are some things to ponder in this:
1. Can Camp Obama counter fewer ads with more memorably and better placed once?
2. Will perceptions about the two candidates be so deeply embedded by October 2nd that only a political hangnail-sized number of voters could change their minds based on ads coming from sources they know are trying to change the numbers?
3.Is there indeed a saturation point where people have heard arguments, picked up all the vibes about how supposedly dangerous a candidate is and the ads just don’t have the same amount of impact?
A more immediate question: if Mitt Romney is trying to move to the center and hopes voters won’t remember his primary and early campaign stances and rhetoric, forget about conservatives: will Barack Obama and the Democrats let him?
PREDICTION TWO: If Romney and the GOP keep claiming Obama wants to redestribute the wealth by pointing to a 14 year old video it will NOT play well with many independents and swing voters. The reason: Obama has been President for four years and he is no longer an unknown quantity.
UPDATE: Time’s Mark Halperin thinks this Romney relaunch is looking good:
On technical competence, the Romney campaign is handling its (latest) “re-launch” pretty well so far.
First off, a well-executed “turn the page” gambit involves implicitly acknowledging the campaign was on the wrong track, without admitting too much and thereby counter productively driving more “campaign in disarray” stories. The idea is to suggest a purposeful, clear-eyed change of course, rather than a half-cocked, panicky swerve. Boston seems to have hit their mark on this pretty well, with their targeted backgrounding to selected press types, taking advantage of the fact that this is a group always eager for a new story line.
Second, the campaign has put Romney himself at the center of the comeback narrative, rather than arguments about process, money, etc. This is essential for a number of reasons, including the Republican’s deficits compared to President Obama on a range of traits in the minds of voters. The project of making Romney an acceptable (or, even, desirable) alternative to the well-liked incumbent was, to state the obvious, not completed in Tampa.
Third, from the looks of and reports about Romney’s Wednesday night Miami rally, he’s sounding a bit more fired up and ready to go than usual. If you think about recent presidential campaign comebacks, the perception and reality of the candidate “fighting” back is almost always at the center of the narrative. Think, among many other examples, Kerry 2004 against Dean, Gore 2000 against both Bradley and Bush, Bill Clinton always, Bush 2000 against McCain, McCain 2008 against the GOP field. Of course, not all those comebacks led to ultimate victory.