Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour says Mitt Romney has to pull a Ronald Reagan at the Republican convention in Tampa this week if he expects to beat President Barack Obama in the November election.
“They have just said everything bad about [Romney], but the American people know President Obama's record doesn’t deserve re-election,” Barbour told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren Monday night. “Now they want to see what is the real Mitt Romney.
“And I think Mitt Romney starts at this convention doing what Ronald Reagan did in 1980, saying: ‘This president doesn't deserve re-election, but let me tell you why I ought to be your president.’”
Barbour noted Reagan was trailing Jimmy Carter by a wide margin going into the 1980 Republican convention, but used the party gathering to begin shaping a message that ended up peeling away Democratic voters from Carter, who Barbour said was in the same position Obama is in today.
“People knew Jimmy Carter shouldn’t be re-elected,” Barbour said. “They didn't want him again, but they weren’t sure about Reagan.
“Reagan’s point was the debates,” he added. “It was at the debates that the American people said, ‘Well, all the bad stuff they’ve been saying about Reagan, I don’t believe that. I like him. He seems very normal and regular to me.’
“Tonight, this week, Mitt Romney’s going to have the chance to start doing what Ronald Reagan did, to disprove all the carpet bombing that the Democrats have done,” Barbour said. “I mean, they have said he doesn’t care about people like you, he’s a bad person, he’s a vulture capitalist, he shifts jobs to China, he’s a plutocrat, his wife is a known equestrian.”
Barbour rejected suggestions that Romney has yet to shore up support from his own party.
“The party’s very united. There’s no question about that,” he said. The key now, he added, is to focus on independents and undecided Democrats who are just now beginning to pay attention to the election.
“This is sort of the beginning of the campaign,” Barbour said, describing the convention as “the launching pad” for a new effort aimed at really defining who Mitt Romney is and what he stands for.
“They’re sitting there saying that the country’s worse off since Obama," Barbour said of undecided voters. “We’re in a recession. Things are going in the wrong direction. So they’re looking for somebody else. And this is the launch pad. This is not the only thing. I mean, we won’t tell you next Friday that Romney has done it because the world doesn't work that way. But this is the first big step.”
He said the challenge for Romney is huge because the election is “not only a referendum on Obama’s failed record,” but one as well on what the Republican nominee would do “to turn our country around.”
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