Matt Lewis, writing on the Daily Caller Web site, has a post with this startling title: “The bad economy won’t elect Mitt Romney.” He says:
Mitt Romney’s campaign is not “doomed,” but it is in is in deep trouble. As I’ve learned, some people don’t want to hear this — but ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.
There are many factors, but the most costly error might have been the mistaken notion that a bad economy would automatically make it impossible for Barack Obama to win...Overcoming this false premise is just one of the problems that must be faced.
Erick Erickson similarly asks whether the Romney camp is facing up to the depth of its troubles.
As you know, I agree with Lewis on this; I’ve repeatedly argued that there are a number of reasons to question the basic driving assumption he identifies. This race could still tip either way, but if Romney does lose, this will be a key reason why.
If you doubt Lewis’s point that this is the strategic premise of Romney’s campaign, look no further than the recent Romney campaign memo for confirmation. “The reality of the Obama economy will reassert itself as the ultimate downfall of the Obama Presidency,” it said. Given the economy, Obama simply can't win. Voters have decided he’s a complete failure; it’s only a matter of time until they come to their senses and support Mitt. Period, full stop.
Lewis argues that Romney must overcome this false premise in order to win. And in truth, it does explain much of the Romney campaign’s behavior: The failure to offer a clear enough substantive alternative at the convention; the continued refusal to detail his policies, even under intense criticism; the blind faith that this will play out as the 1980 race did; the notion that disappointed Obama voters are only sticking with him for symbolic or emotional reasons, and that Republicans just have to persuade them to “break up” with him to win. Why offer specificity if the economy makes it inevitable these voters will eventually “break up”with Obama and that he will lose?
The news that the Romney campaign is, in a strategic shift, going to get far more specific in the days ahead needs to be looked at in this context. Explaining the shift, one Romney adviser told CNN’s Peter Hamby:
A Romney campaign official acknowledged to CNN that Romney has not done enough to give voters a sense of what he would do if elected .“Polling shows that voters recognize that Gov. Romney has a plan, but they want more details,” said the official...
The question, though, is whether the campaign will actually be more specific about Romney’s policies, or whether it is just saying it will be to quiet criticism. If new specifics are actually forthcoming, it may well mean Team Romney has rethought the basic premise of his campaign. If not, it may mean that it hasn’t changed its theory of the race at all. And it’s good to hear at least one conservative writer taking note of the problem.