Romney, the turnaround expert?
(CBS News) Mitt Romney is a turnaround expert. He says he can turn around the country. But first he must show he can do it with his campaign. When Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, he and his surrogates argued that the way he ran his campaign was a proxy for how he would govern. The one-term senator had to make this case because he had no experience running anything. Romney is pitching himself as the exact opposite: He is so experienced he can turn around anything. Whether it's your company or your Olympics, he knows how to walk in, figure out what's wrong, and fix it.
Of course, the Romney campaign's public posture is that nothing is going wrong. That's natural enough. It is in the handbook that you don't ever admit anything is running off the rails, even as you quietly get things back on track. The campaign got good news Thursday that helped them make the case that the situation was not as in need of change as the chattering class might think. The Gallup daily tracking poll shows that the race is tied. With 47 days left until Election Day, President Obama gets 47 percent and Mitt Romney gets 47 percent. Given Romney's recent comments about the 47 percent, it's clear that Gallup has a sense of humor. (We must remember to invite Gallup over for dinner some time--or at least cocktails.)
What better trait of a leader than not twitching at every sign of worry and discontent from supporters? Romney has had plenty of practice. He has had to go through the process of assuring his backers that there are no monsters under the bed several times. But time is drawing short, so changes are taking place. Romney's aides say he will start to get more specific about what he will do if he's elected. He's named policies before, but that hasn't done the trick. Now he's going to try to explain how his policies can affect people in their daily lives.
That transaction requires the spark of connection, something Romney has not had so far. To help make that connection, the Romney campaign says the candidate is going to spend less time fundraising and more time directly asking for votes on the campaign trail. He's put together a "bus tour" in Ohio, though it may just be a string of events held in proximity of a bus rather than a proper bus tour. In his television ads, he is going to start talking directly to the camera, in an effort to create some kind of bond.
This is where the recently revealed video of Romney speaking at a Boca Raton, Fla., fundraiser could be an impediment. To make his pitch, Romney can't risk turning off voters. The fellow openly dismissing 47 percent of the country did not come across as very appealing. Because Romney lacks retail political skills, it's hard for him to make connections that might be as indelible as on that secretly recorded video. As one Republican campaign veteran said, "I felt like when I was watching that video that it was the first time I'd ever seen the real Mitt Romney." So Romney needs to appear genuine again--just not in a way that insults half the country.
To execute this new plan, Romney will need all the skills he says he would bring to the presidency. He needs to articulate the vision for the remaining 47 days, commit his team to it, and execute relentlessly. As he wrote in Turnaround: Crisis, Leadership, and the Olympic Games, "focus, focus, focus. Turnarounds that failed did so because management tried to do too many things rather than focus on what was critical." His campaign has been conspicuously lacking in focus for weeks.
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