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Can Mitt Romney Avert Defeat in November?

By    |   Monday, 10 September 2012 04:56 PM EDT

Christopher Ruddy’s Perspective: Earlier this year it seemed to many that Mitt Romney was a shoo-in to become our next president.

Not anymore.

Back then the landscape looked quite promising for Romney to beat Barack Obama. After all, Obama was a Democratic president presiding over one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression, a doctrinaire liberal out of sync with most Americans, and a man who apparently has lacked the leadership to forge compromises in Washington to get the nation moving again.

But months later, Mitt Romney is behind in national tracking polls, most importantly in almost every swing state. A leading GOP official on Capitol Hill told me in Tampa that Romney can't win Ohio, and he won't win Virginia.

How could this happen?

Editor's Note: Will Obama Be Defeated? Vote Here!

If I could put my finger on it, I would say the Romney campaign has been poorly managed. They haven't staged their candidate well, and their messaging has been incoherent, to put it nicely.

We saw this mismanagement early in the primary. Those in the Romney campaign should have locked up their candidate's nomination by January. But the campaign team decided they didn't want to owe the conservative base of the GOP much, so they decided to forego the usual outreach efforts. Instead, they spent tens of millions of dollars in attack ads against fellow Republicans.

Four months later, they had the nomination, but at a nasty political cost. Since April, many of us thought a united GOP and the party's nominee, flush with a remarkable amount of cash, would come out swinging against Obama and offer a platform of new, positive ideas to win over the undecideds.

This hasn’t happened. In fact, one gaffe and misstep seem to follow another.

Political pros say a presidential campaign has two opportunities to really shine, first at the convention and then with the first presidential debate.

The first opportunity has already been lost, demonstrating again the weakness of the political managers around Romney.

The amateurish way the Tampa convention was organized was revealing. Consider they spent $2.5 million of critically important campaign funds building the Frank Gehry-inspired wood stage. One billionaire supporter of Romney jokingly told me that the odd stage and the wood-slat designed podium looked odd, like "a Swedish sauna."

Another major gaffe by campaign organizers was placing the stage in the middle of the convention center, instead of at its end. With that placement, a swathe of empty seats on both sides of the stage was evident every time the national television cameras panned the audience. (Interestingly, the Democrats correctly placed their stage at the end of their center, obviating the empty seat problem.)

But the really stunning thing about Tampa was that I couldn't figure out the key message Romney's people wanted the American people to know.

Editor's Note: Will Obama Be Defeated? Vote Here!

There were so many messages, it was disorienting: "Mitt is a regular guy." "We're a diverse party." "Hi, I'm Chris Christie, and I'm running for re-election." "Ann humanizes Mitt." "We're proud of the Mormon faith." "The Bush years were not as bad as you thought." "Bain Capital is not an evil company." Add to these a bunch of sub-themes that have faded into oblivion.

The message, repeated in mantra fashion by every speaker and shouted by every placard-carrying delegate, should have been a simple one: Obama failed to do the job he promised. Mitt Romney, a man of integrity and incredible business skill, has the plan to get the job done.

Such a message never permeated.

On the other hand, the Democratic convention went like clockwork with superb messaging — a clear and consistent message that ran through every speaker's remarks. The message: Only Obama and the Democrats can protect you and your benefits from those rich Republican elitists. Mitt Romney simply can't be trusted.

So, the first major chance the GOP had to let the American people connect with Mitt Romney was obviated by the campaign's decision to allow Clint Eastwood to hijack the night with his comedy routine.

Sure it was funny. Did it win over swing voters? No. Did it overshadow Romney? Yes.

It is beyond belief that seasoned political pros would allow Eastwood, whose political views and loyalties have been all over the map through the decades, to take the stage right before the nominee's speech and ad lib a speech.

I thought the most telling moment of the Tampa convention was Chris Christie's speech. Christie was given the keynote speaking slot. It is considered the most important speech second to the nominee's and afforded prime-time coverage.

Much has been made of the fact Christie used it as an infomercial for himself, and barely mentioned either Romney or Obama for that matter.

It's important to remember that Romney's campaign strategists also have worked for Christie. So reading the tea leaves of Christie's "out for himself" speech, I can only conclude Romney's advisers are either incompetent or have significant doubts about Romney's will to win, hence Christie's distancing act.

Romney himself seems to have a difficult time grappling with messaging. Granted, his strengths are in business, not in communications. This is why his campaign team is so important. So far, their advice and messaging have fallen woefully short.

Romney hasn’t helped. His selection of Paul Ryan, a rising star congressman who few thought had presidential stature and has no foreign policy credentials, has further confused Romney's message.

By tapping Ryan, Romney highlighted congressional Republican efforts to abolish Medicare, a dream issue for the Obama campaign.

So a campaign that should have been increasingly focused on Obama's job performance has become one about Medicare and the Ryan plan.

This past Sunday on “Meet the Press” we saw another messaging fumble by Romney. He has stated unequivocally for months now he would fully "repeal Obamacare." But he told NBC's David Gregory he likes certain provisions of the president's healthcare law, and said he would keep some, including the requirement that insurance companies take people with pre-existing conditions and allow young adults to be covered by their parents’ policies until age 26.

Not only is this a major reversal of Romney's position, it also counters claims he will repeal the individual mandate.

Here's why: The federal government estimates that 25 million uninsured people have pre-existing conditions. If Romney gets his way and insurance companies are forced to give them coverage, it will swamp the system, forcing insurers to pass on these enormous costs to those currently insured. Premiums will skyrocket even more under Romney's plan than Obama's. (Obamacare "solves" this problem by using the individual mandate, as it forces tens of millions of healthy people to get insurance, evening out the risk pool and lowering costs to the insured. Still, I oppose the individual mandate.)

Editor's Note: Will Obama Be Defeated? Vote Here!

Once again, the Romney campaign team didn't bother to think about the implications of this new and surprise policy turn.

Earlier this summer Rupert Murdoch tweeted a message that may turn out to be prophetic: "Tough O Chicago pros will be hard to beat unless  [Romney] drops old friends from team and hires some real pros. Doubtful."

Obama critics have been touting Edward Klein's new best-selling book about Obama entitled "Amateur." But it's looking more and more that Obama is no amateur, while the Romney campaign has more than its fair share of them.

Christopher Ruddy is CEO and editor of Newsmax Media Inc. Read more Christopher Ruddy Insider articles — Click Here Now.

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Monday, 10 September 2012 04:56 PM
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