With the presidential election seven weeks from tomorrow, it’s clear that Mitt Romney is not yet where he wants to be. President Obama appears to have an advantage – though his lead is hardly insurmountable – and there’s growing pessimism on the right.
Making matters considerably worse, however, is the evidence that Team Romney is itself in disarray. It’s hard enough to defeat a well-liked incumbent with a lengthy record of accomplishments, but doing so with a campaign operation divided against itself makes Romney’s challenge that much more difficult.
While “talk of infighting within the Romney headquarters” has been “percolating for months,” we’ve clearly entered a new stage. Politico published a lengthy piece last night filled with unnamed aides pointing fingers and casting blame – for Romney’s muddled message, ineffective ads, disjointed convention, and useless speeches.
The number of Republican insiders and campaign staffers who seemed eager to dish to Politico about their dissatisfaction only reinforced the scope of the underlying problem.
It gets worse. Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei also report that Team Romney, just 50 days before the election, is going to “abruptly” shift its strategy, after Romney advisers concluded “they had to make a painful course correction.”
And what strategy will the Republican campaign “abruptly” shift to? According to BuzzFeed, Romney will focus on mobilizing the GOP’s right-wing base with an emphasis on “patriotism and God.” And according to the New York Times, aides said Romney “would present a series of speeches, television commercials and events promoting his five-point economic policy.”
So, Romney staffers agree there will be a shift in the campaign’s direction, but disagree with one another as to which direction.
The talk about Romney’s inevitable electoral demise still seems premature, but when it’s mid-September and campaign insiders are turning on one another, and disagreeing with one another about the campaign’s basic strategy, there’s clearly a significant problem. We expect this from a campaign after it has lost, not before.
What’s more, this isn’t just inside baseball for campaign junkies; we’re learning something important. One of Mitt Romney’s principal selling points is that he has tremendous managerial skills thanks to his lucrative private-sector experience. Vote for Romney, the argument goes, because he knows how to run a major operation, and will be competent as head of the executive branch.
And yet, Romney appears to be struggling due in part to a failure in leadership. What does that tell us about the kind of president he’d be?