It is not a coincidence that senior adviser Ed Gillespie has emerged in a more prominent role as the Romney campaign begins to demonstrated renewed attention on explaining the Romney-Ryan economic message. Last week Gillespie held a conference call with media to, in essence, send out word that the campaign had to clarify and pound away at its economic message, drawing clearer contrasts and explaining what Mitt Romney’s agenda would do for voters. It was the first candid acknowledgment that the team has to do a better job connecting the dots.
Today, Gillespie again is front and center, this time authoring a public memo in which he explains, “This election is a choice. And the simple fact is, we can’t afford four more years of [President] Obama’s failed policies. This is not what a real recovery looks like. A real recovery would result in 12 million new jobs, as the Romney Plan will. A real recovery would unleash more domestic energy, as the Romney Plan will. A real recovery would make it easier for small businesses to open and expand, as the Romney Plan will. . . . These will be the themes of the Ohio bus tour this week. Voters will get to know more not only about the specifics of the Romney Plan, but how it will benefit them. A real recovery will improve the quality of life for working Americans, and lift millions out of poverty by making jobs available again.”
Romney hit those same notes in his “60 Minutes” interview:
Many Republicans who had been urging such an approach will be relieved to hear a coordinated theme. And more importantly, those who know him will be relieved that Gillespie has emerged to help steer the message. Gillespie is experienced in campaigns and in government (most recently as an adviser to George W. Bush) and was chairman of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s 17 point-win in Virginia in 2009. He knows how to run a race and how to win in swing states. In terms of temperament he is a good fit for Romney — calm, confident and organized.
Now is the hard part, of course, which is executing what the campaign has figured out must be done. One positive sign is the campaign’s quickness in picking up on Obama missteps and using them to cement the Romney-Ryan message that Obama is simply not up to delivering results we need. The campaign was fast off the draw last night on Obama’s disastrous “60 Minutes” interview. This morning the RNC was anxious for voters to see David Axelrod in action:
Yowser, that’s a bad job of winging it.
In other words, the Romney-Ryan ticket would have voters believe that the Obama team has no clue what to do, or whether it even wants to take on big issues. “This is not the time to have that discussion” could be said not only of the president’s approach to Social Security but also to Medicare, tax reform and just about every other major challenge.
Romney wants to set up a contrast between the big talking, under-achieving president and his own emphasis on getting results. (Expect to see more of the “No, I can’t” ads, taking Obama to task for admitting he can’t win the battle with the Beltway mentality.) The challenge will be for Romney to give voters a very clear idea how energy development, tax reform, a reduced debt, regulatory reform, increased trade and the rest of the Romney-Ryan agenda will lead to a revived economy.
Republicans can bemoan that the Romney campaign took too long to get to this point. But they can take some solace that the race remains tight and the Romney-Ryan ship seems to be on course. The real test is whether it can steer through or around the media-magnified gaffe moments. In the debates, the challenge will be to convey the difference between a president full of self-admiration but low on ideas and a challenger who’s had problems getting to heart of the matter, but who has some concrete ideas about how to turn things around.