Doug Schoen's Perspective:
The most recent Fox News polls from Florida and Ohio are telling. They offer clear instruction for the Romney campaign about what needs to be done — and needs to be done urgently.
According to the latest Real Clear Politics average, the former Massachusetts governor trails the president by a narrow, 3.1 point margin nationally — well within the typical margin of error.
|Former Gov. Mitt Romney (right) campaigns with Sen. Marco Rubio earlier today in Pennsylvania.
At the same time, the governor is trailing with key groups such as women, minorities and younger people — groups he has to improve his showing with to be elected.
But the Fox News polls underscore a larger problem, and one that goes to the heart of the challenges facing the Romney campaign.
In both states, a clear majority of Romney voters say that they are voting against President Obama, rather than for Gov. Romney.
In Ohio, 63 percent of Romney voters say that they are voting against Obama, with just 29 percent voting for Romney. And in Florida, a majority of Romney voters (52 percent) are voting against Obama as well.
The implications of this are clear, as my colleagues on Sunday afternoon's Fox Insiders, John LeBoutillier and Pat Caddell both made clear. Romney needs to articulate a vision for what he is going to do for America, how he is going to offer leadership.
This is the only way he will be able to begin to get votes for himself, rather than collecting votes against Obama.
As Mitch Daniels put it tellingly in his response to the State of the Union, and yesterday on Fox News Sunday, Gov. Romney needs to be inclusive.
He needs to articulate how his presidency will benefit all Americans, not just those who are upper middle class.
The polling shows that President Obama does far better than Gov. Romney in terms of the issue of helping the middle class, and Gov. Romney needs to develop a campaign message that argues explicitly that all Americans — and particularly those who are struggling economically — will benefit from his presidency.
Of course, elections for president typically are referenda on the performance of the incumbent. That is to be expected. But what is not expected is that there are so few people suggesting that they are voting for a challenger, particularly in a situation where he is relatively close to the incumbent.
President Obama is weak, and the White House understands and acknowledges that weakness.
Indeed, that is why the administration has begun a "we can't wait" initiative, to demonstrate the president's leadership and willingness to act unilaterally.
Gov. Romney can't wait either. He needs to articulate a campaign message, a campaign vision, and most of all a strategy and approach for the economy — sooner rather than later.
Otherwise, his job will become immensely more difficult than it already is.
Douglas E. Schoen is a political strategist, Fox News contributor, and author of several books including the recently released, "Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What It Means for 2012 and Beyond" (Rowman and Littlefield). Read more reports from Doug Schoen — Click Here Now.
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