8 Questions

Dan Balz on the Republican National Convention in Tampa

Question 1: Is it possible for Mitt Romney to reintroduce himself after the attacks by President Obama's campaign?

Conventions offer all candidates a potential reset moment for their candidacies. Bill Clinton got a big boost from the 1992 Democratic convention and George H.W. Bush helped turn his campaign around at the 1988 Republican convention. But neither had taken the kind of pounding on the airwaves by his rival that Romney has absorbed this summer at the hands of President Obama’s campaign.

Much of what voters know about Romney has come from negative ads and attacks, both from the Democrats and earlier from his GOP rivals during the primaries and caucuses. Romney spent little money since the primaries ended telling his own story — a decision that baffles some Democratic strategists. That means there is much more to fill in this week.

Still, Republicans are optimistic about what Romney can achieve with his acceptance speech on Thursday and all the preliminary help he’ll receive on the other nights. They talk of Tampa being a breakout moment for the former Massachusetts governor, an opening unlike any other to make a genuine connection with voters.

It’s a huge opportunity -- “an imperative,” said GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway -- but one that involves some choices. There is only so much that Romney can do for himself in the hour he’ll speak in Tampa.

Should he concentrate on making himself likable? Should he instead try to project himself as a leader and decision maker for difficult times? How much time should he spend outlining his policies? How much time should he spend criticizing the president’s record? Some Republicans say he would be well-advised to project leadership and offer a vision — and let others fill in his personal story.

Obama’s campaign won’t give Romney much space to do this. Still, he has much to gain if he handles the week skillfully.

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