Mitt Romney today took the first step on the road to recovery when he said, in effect, “I am Mitt Romney and my campaign has a problem.”
But unlike most twelve step programs where there is a community of support, Romney’s decision to admit weakness and shake up his campaign message is being greeted with derision. This is a law of politics; the hounds bay for a change in your campaign and then trash you when you make it. In fact, the reason campaigns—and presidencies—are willing to cling to people and messages that fail is precisely because the story about the change (who, what, how, why: the tick-tock, as it calls) overwhelms the change itself. The story invariably becomes “campaign in disarray.”
Of course, if the polls tick up for Romney, then we will all say this was a turning point. “This” meaning the elevation of Ed Gillespie and the re-focusing of Stuart Stevens on what he’s best at. But here’s the problem: Mitt Romney needs to go one step further and say: “I am Mitt Romney, and I have a problem.” But if you think it’s hard to change a campaign, try changing the candidate.