Roundtable: Romney needs a "game-changer"

Mitt Romney campaigns at Van Dyck Park September 13, 2012 in Fairfax, Virginia.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

(CBS News) A roundtable of journalists and political analysts dove into the metrics of the presidential campaign on "Face the Nation" Sunday, saying that Mitt Romney has little time to pull out a victory from a race that is "slipping away from him," and that he needs a "game-changer" via a win in the presidential debates.

Without a serious course correction in his campaign - something Romney himself, in an interview to air on "60 Minutes" tonight, said he does not need - they said President Obama appears to have the advantage heading into the final six weeks of the election.

Romney: My campaign doesn't need a turnaround

"I don't think the game is over yet," David Gergen, former adviser to four presidents, said on "Face the Nation." "I think what Mitt Romney needs is a game-changer in the first debate. . . . It is very close in the national polls and slipping away from him in the battle ground states and that puts pressure on him going into these debates."

After a scathing column in the Wall Street Journal criticizing Romney and his campaign for being "a rolling calamity," Peggy Noonan said she received a lot of "blowback" from the Romney campaign and its surrogates.

However, she also said she was privately thanked by some Republicans. She said people told her "they need help, at the Romney campaign, they need to be woken up and they need to raise their game. ... You can win it if you are Mitt Romney, if you go forward with meaning and you stop being small and merely tactical and cautious."

Journalist David Corn, who obtained and released the recording of Romney at a private fundraiser where the candidate called the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay federal income taxes "victims" who will never vote for him, said Romney's problem is that he has no "core."

"I think you have seen Mitt Romney in the last seven years, he has been campaigning, being all sorts of different things and not having... a core, I would say not having a core message or a core mantra," Corn said.

Also on "Face the Nation": Clinton: No president could have "magically" fixed economy in one term

Time Magazine Managing Editor Richard Stengel said the election was supposed to be a referendum on President Obama, but it "has turned into a referendum on Romney."

The roundtable also agreed that Romney fumbled his handling of the violence in the Middle East that killed four U.S. consulate workers, including the Ambassador to Libya. They said a veteran campaign operative would have better guided Romney.

"What an old hand might do is say, 'Look, you have to prosecute this case against the president not in this way, just let it be,'" Dickerson said.

"Mr. Romney went out there and he tried to make some political hay of it. An old hand would have said, 'Buddy, when Americans come under attack, the first thing you do is say, we are praying for them, we are asking for unity, we will have no criticism right now for the president, but this will unfold. We will be thinking about it and we will be talking to you very seriously about it very soon,'" Noonan added.

"A lot of Republicans believe this: that Romney has this authenticity problem, that is the barrier to keep him from saying, 'I do care about you and have policies that will affect you.' [P]eople don't buy the pitch... because they don't buy the guy," said CBS News' political director John Dickerson.

Nonnan said that a number of Americans would be willing to say, "'Mr. Obama, we gave you four years, I think I am not going to re-up your contract,' except they look at Romney and he hasn't fully made the sale to them yet" as a replacement.

Stengel said the president has not done a good job campaigning, either. "The president has not done a great job of explaining his own message. I mean, he has to turn to Bill Clinton to do it for him."

Noonan added that Mr. Obama has admitted failure when he said you can't change Washington from the inside.

"When a president of four years says, 'Excuse me, you can't change Washington from the inside,' he is saying, 'I failed to change Washington from the inside.' He could not negotiate," Noonan said.

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