I think it’s fair to say that Mitt Romney is no longer the ordained frontrunner in the GOP presidential primary. The field is too volatile for anyone to claim frontrunner status, as the swings after the first and second debates show. The first debate made Herman Cain the ascendant candidate, while the second debate has vaulted Rep. Michele Bachmann into at least a share of the lead in the polls. She and Romney are now neck and neck in Iowa. With Sarah Palin and Rick Perry waiting in the wings, we’re apt to see a number a game changers between now and the first real contests.
Mitt Romney, meanwhile, is honing his message in on the economy. When he isn’t saying things that make conservatives cringe — accepting some of the left’s line on global warming, or declaring that yes, he can in fact work with Democrats — he is sending out a handful of press release every day marking President Obama’s disastrous economic record. The releases are substantive, resembling link collections typically sent out by political party press shops. And the masthead graphic Team Romney is using is tough to improve on.
That graphic, which sits atop many of the Romney press shop’s emails and adorns his campaign web site, hits the right tone on several levels. One, the obvious, is Obama’s abysmal jobs record, illustrated by the line of people. The visual echoes Romney’s powerful “Bumps in the Road” video. But the headline is a double whammy: “Obama Isn’t Working.” Not only does this say that Obama’s policies are failing to ignite the economy, it’s also a not too subtle reminder that Obama spends an inordinate amount of his time playing golf, partying in the White House, going on vacations and delivering purely political messages to a tight circle of supporters. The headline suggests that Obama is out of touch and living high while the American people face a daunting economic climate. While Obama is doing all this, Romney is saying that the president literally isn’t working — he’s not doing his job, and the American people are suffering for it.
On the whole, I regard Mitt Romney as a weak candidate in the general election. His record on health care is a major flaw and blunts attacks he might make on ObamaCare, while his record in business and rescuing the Salt Lake Olympics gives him some positives. Mitt Romney the candidate is a decidedly mixed bag. But as far as the messaging goes, Romney and his team are running a serious and professional campaign.