Why is Mitt Romney losing his edge on the economy?
One Republican strategist pointed out that the selection of Paul Ryan as Romney's running mate served as another opportunity for distraction.
"The choice of Ryan might have been brilliant for solidifying the Republican base, but it also introduced a conversation about Medicare and entitlements that we didn't need to have during this election," the strategist said. "So that made for a good two to three weeks where we were fighting a battle that was not on our turf. We need to shift the battlefield back to Republican strength: Debt and taxes and economic growth and policies that promote competitiveness for American businesses."
"We have not been talking about that and so we have been losing ground," the strategist added.
Another recent controversy threatens to further derail the Romney campaign's efforts to return the conversation to the economy: On Monday, the liberal magazine Mother Jones unearthed a secretly taped video in which Romney can be seen at a private fundraiser describing the majority of Mr. Obama's supporters as people who are "dependent on government" and "believe that they are victims." Romney has been forced to answer criticisms over the comments from both the left and the right - distracting from the campaign's efforts to gain traction by offering more specific policy proposals.
The path forward
Regardless of the recent interferences, Republicans are confident that Romney can regain the upper hand on questions about the economy - if it's even true he's lost it.
John Geer, a professor at Vanderbilt University who specializes in polling and campaign advertising, says Romney needs to make a broad - and specific - case for his economic leadership.
"People want jobs, sure, but they want to know that Romney is going to be a better steward of the economy, and that requires a broad message," Geer said. "The problem is that all he's promising doesn't add up... Now he needs to start filling that void."
Even when external events intervene, Holtz-Eakin says, Romney should be hammering home his economic arguments on the campaign trail.
"He certainly has an obvious interest and obligation to respond to international events as they occur, but with his campaign events and the vast artillery of modern campaigns and communications, you don't have to leave [economic issues] out" of the conversation," he said.
"We need to be making sharp, clear, and distinct contrasts between what Barack Obama's record, and how Mitt Romney would take the country on a more positive course," added Holt. "The campaign is attempting to do that and they've just got to keep at it and stay focused."
"I'm hopeful," said Ayres. "The door is open. Romney just needs to walk through it."
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