Presumptive Republican nominee is looking more presumptive every day — even as leading conservatives and conservative news outlets such as The Wall Street Journal express concern to how he is running his campaign.
Or not running it.
The latest comes from The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol, still a highly influential figure in top GOP circles. Kristol has offered warnings to the
Romney campaign before and this time he was more blunt:
Political analyst Bill Kristol on Sunday added to conservative criticism of Mitt Romney’s campaign, saying it was a troubling sign that Obama was still ahead in the polls despite a still weak economy.
“President Obama has had three disappointing months, but he’s holding his own,” said Kristol on Fox News Sunday, citing polls which show him even with or leading Romney despite a series of weak jobs reports. “If I were in the Romney campaign that would worry me.”
Kristol, the founder and editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, said that the Romney campaign had failed to convince voters they had a viable plan to revive the economy.
He pointed to a Fox News poll showing Romney performing worse than Obama on the economy, which voters rank as the most important issue this election.
“I think the Fox News poll actually has the key to what the problem is for the Mitt Romney campaign. Do you think Barack Obama has a clear plan for improving the economy or not? Yes, 41; no 53. It’s not great for an incumbent president. The economy is slow. And you are only at 41-53,” said Kristol.
“Do you think his challenger, Gov. Romney, has a clear plan for improving the economy or not? Yes, 27; No, 55,” he continued.
“I don’t think you can beat an incumbent president, even if the economy is slow, if 27 percent of the voters think you as the challenger don’t have a clear plan for improving the economy,” Kristol said.
On many issues so far, Romney’s campaign positions often resemble one of the most popular items at a bakery:
Because Romney is walking a political rightrope between trying to edge the center, woo center right and centrist voters, and please the party’s hard core conservative, Tea Party and talk show political base, he has increasingly avoided specificity.
Or, if he has been specific, he’s changed his position, engaging in a more extreme version of America’s Little Political Ballet: he knows he’s shifting his position, and analysts know he’s shifting his position, and most voters know he’s shifting his position but because he says he isn’t shifting his position, he gets a kind of pass on shifting his position.
But Kristol and others want Romney to begin offering specificity now.
Various analysts on cable have suggested that the Romney campaign is delighted with where they are right now — and that after Labor Day they intend to fill in the blanks.
The problem is that just as first impression are often lasting impressions, pre-Labor Day definitions can often belasting definitions.
And Romney needs to transcend being defined as a political jellyfish or etch-a-sketch artist who is as swift in changing his positions as someone jet-skiing across the waves.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.