The Republican nominee’s team labored Thursday to ensure that his debate triumph was not fleeting, hoping that it could serve as a jolt to his flagging campaign. As one adviser said, “The afterglow will be short-lived.”
Romney is rolling out a new batch of television ads in battleground states, focused on taxes and jobs, that amplify his core argument from the debate: that the country cannot afford another four years of an Obama presidency and must choose a new path.
Aides said that in coming days, Romney won’t merely condemn the $5 trillion in new federal debt amassed during Obama’s term, but also trumpet forecasts that the debt would grow to $20 trillion by the end of a second Obama term.
Advisers said forthcoming ads, as well as public appearances by the candidate and his surrogates, will seek to reinforce Romney’s readiness to be president, something that Democrats and some Republicans had questioned in recent weeks.
The strategy calls for Romney to highlight his connection to “real folks” by sharing anecdotes about voters he has met on the campaign trail. A greater effort will be made to radiate the confidence of someone prepared to sit in the Oval Office.
Even as he finds his footing on the economy, Romney plans to give a major foreign policy speech on Monday at the Virginia Military Institute in which he is expected to challenge Obama’s leadership in the Middle East. Romney’s strategists say the president is becoming more vulnerable on his handling of the tensions in the region.
“He needed a moment where the door was cracked open and now he’s got to put his shoulder to it and go through,” said Terry Holt, who was a strategist on George W. Bush’s campaigns. “People want to see Mitt Romney roll up his sleeves and show how he will go to work. This is an opening, but it will take a steady, determined and focused effort to get this narrative back on firm footing.”
At campaign headquarters in Boston, advisers held briefings with supporters, surrogates and allies in Washington’s chattering class to hammer their message that the election will be a choice between two different paths for the nation, while playing down any expectations of an immediate shift in the race.
On the private briefing calls, pollster Neil Newhouse stressed that although Romney’s debate performance put him on a positive trajectory, it is unlikely to dramatically move numbers in states such as Ohio, where the latest polls show Obama with a significant advantage, according to an adviser also on the calls.
“I don’t think it’s going to be decided by debates alone,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior adviser to Romney. “I think it’s going to be decided by the question voters are going to ask themselves, which is, ‘Do I want another four years like the last four years?’ And on that basis, I think Mitt Romney’s going to win.”