Numerous Republican pundits are lamenting Mitt Romney’s return to cautious campaigning after the bold choice of Rep. Paul Ryan.
The House Budget Chairman was seen by some as a truth-teller who would bring serious policy discussion to the race. Instead, Romney and Ryan have both largely avoided policy details – frustrating conservative pundits.
The hand-wringing comes among multiple polls showing President Obama ahead following the conventions, although a Washington Post-ABC News survey released Tuesday finds that among likely voters the race remains deadlocked. Romney’s campaign has argued that Obama’s bounce is short-lived and “the basic structure of the race has not changed significantly.”
Bill Kristol in the Weekly Standard:
Romney gained some ground when he chose Paul Ryan. But now he seems to be back to a pre-Ryan sort of campaign. When a challenger merely appeals to disappointment with the incumbent and tries to reassure voters he’s not too bad an alternative, that isn’t generally a formula for victory.
Standard columnist Stephen Hayes, on Fox News:
“I feel like now we’ve sort of reverted to this pre-Ryan moment — this safe, cautious campaign.”
The Washington Examiner’s Byron York quotes an (anonymous) Republican:
“I thought the Ryan choice was a clear announcement of a new strategy,” says one well-connected Republican not associated with the campaign. “But what seems to have happened is the campaign has drifted back to the position that this is just a referendum on Barack Obama. At some point, you have to earn the presidency.”
The Romney strategy seems unlikely to change. As the Post’s Michael Gerson — another Republican critic — notes, “What initially seemed like an ideological choice — previewing a shift in campaign strategy and content — now seems like a more personal decision … Romney chose Ryan, not Ryanism.”