One was a rise in enthusiasm among Democrats, who now appear as energized as Republicans. If that holds, it could change the calculus on who is likely to turn out between now and Nov. 6 in ways detrimental to Romney. Both campaigns say their get-out-the-vote machinery is ready to produce maximum turnout among their supporters.
More worrisome to Romney and the Republicans is what appears to be an unexpected shift in the public mood since the two parties completed their conventions. Although still negative overall about the direction of the country, more Americans now say things are moving in the right direction and more express optimism about the future of the economy.
Romney’s advisers, like their counterparts at Obama headquarters in Chicago, are closely monitoring these attitude shifts, admitting that they aren’t certain what caused them or whether they will last until November. “I think that was something they were successful with at their convention, changing the narrative a little bit about things getting better,” said Romney senior adviser Ed Gillespie. “I don’t know if they can sustain that in the face of economic reality.”
Two weeks ago, Romney’s campaign was set back over a controversy about how he responded to protests in Egypt and the subsequent killing of four Americans in Libya. Romney advisers were frustrated that a succession of economic reports, all of which could be used to portray Obama’s economic record as a failure, were washed away.
They included reports about the rising deficit, the poverty rate (which did not go down), manufacturing jobs (which fell) and the Federal Reserve’s announcement that the economy would need sizable and indefinite help to create more jobs.
To Romney’s team, this was a further sign that the fundamentals of the race leave the president in a vulnerable position — if only Romney can capitalize on those fundamentals more effectively than he has so far. That means Romney and Ryan may have to do more than they’ve been doing to remind voters of the current economic conditions, even as they try to explain what they would do if elected.
The 47 percent controversy
Romney advisers say they have a message plan — and the target audiences they need to attract — and will start to roll it out in the coming days. They tried to do this a week ago but were forced to spend most of the week explaining comments by Romney at a spring fundraiser, captured surreptitiously on video, in which he said the 47 percent of Americans who pay no income taxes consider themselves victims and believe they are entitled to government support.