Mitt Romney tweaks his campaign to provide more details

McClatchy NewspapersSeptember 17, 2012 

— Amid complaints that he’s failing to show Americans why they should elect him, Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign hit the reset button Monday, declaring that the Republican candidate will give more specifics on his proposals in the weeks leading to November’s election.

Romney showcased the new approach – more but not necessarily new details – in a speech Monday to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, where he repackaged his broad economic goals with added facts and background.

"Our campaign is doing well," Romney said Monday in an interview with the network Telemundo. He dismissed reports of infighting among his staff, saying, “My senior campaign people work extraordinarily well together. I work well with them."

But his campaign nonetheless signaled a shift in approach midway between the national conventions and the kickoff of make-or-break debates the first week of October.

Hoping to stop a growing media narrative that the Romney camp is in disarray, key advisers characterized the shift as “a natural progression” rather than a response to a compilation of recent bad news that includes President Barack Obama leading in key swing states and harsh criticism of Romney – even among some Republicans – for breaking with tradition and blasting Obama last week for his handling of deadly violence in Libya and Egypt as the events were still unfolding.

“We do think the timing is right to reinforce more specifics about the Romney plan for a strong middle class,” senior Romney adviser Ed Gillespie said. “There are a lot of Americans out there who are just starting to lock in and starting to look for more information, and now is the time for us to provide that for them.”

"We’re not rolling out new policies,” he added, “so much as we are making sure people understand when we say we can do these things, here’s how we’re going to get them done and these are the specifics.”

Monday’s call to reporters followed complaints from Republicans and conservative pundits that Romney has been too vague about exactly what he’d do if he were elected. They’ve argued that he devoted too much of the Republican National Convention and his prime-time speech there to showing his human side and not enough to proposed policies that would draw a sharp contrast between the former Massachusetts governor and Obama.

“Neither he nor the entire GOP convention made a case for his economic policy agenda. He and Paul Ryan promised to help the middle class, but they never explained other than in passing how they would do it,” the conservative editorial page of The Wall Street Journal said.

“You didn’t get a lot if detail on what he would do if he got the job, and people want to see that,” said Keith Appell, a veteran conservative political strategist. “If they are going to give more detail, many people on the center-right would agree with them.”

Post-convention polls only heightened concern.

A new Marist poll for NBC and The Wall Street Journal found Romney trailing Obama in three swing states – Florida, Ohio and Virginia – though an average of several polls suggests that each state remains closely competitive.

Romney also appears to have lost ground on what many thought would be his strong suit against the incumbent president: taxes. Recent polls find that more Americans think Obama would be better on tax issues than Romney, who’s called for lowering personal and corporate taxes.

“At this point, it can only help Romney to draw a clear and focused contrast on what Obama failed to do and what he (Romney) will do” as president, Appell said.

Romney sought to do that in his speech Monday to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles. He reiterated a five-point economic plan he unveiled last month that calls for increasing energy independence by approving offshore oil exploration and approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline; revamping U.S. trade policy, in part by expanding trade with Latin America; reducing federal spending by 10 percent through attrition and combining unspecified federal agencies; increasing access to higher education; and repealing the 2010 federal health care law.

“The president has put us on the road to Greece,” Romney said in prepared remarks, alluding to the economically distressed European nation. “I will put us back on the road to a stronger America, one which stops spending more than we take in.”

Romney also made specific references to how today’s economy has affected the nation’s Hispanic community and businesses. Some Republican political consultants say he’s done little since the convention to whittle away at the advantage the president has with Hispanic voters.

Obama received 67 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008. A Latino Decisions poll taken after the Democratic convention showed the president with a 66-29 percent lead over Romney among Hispanics.

In his speech, Romney chastised Obama as failing to lead on overhauling immigration laws, an issue that’s been tied up in Congress for years.

He repeated his opposition to the DREAM Act, a proposal to provide a citizenship path to the children of illegal immigrants, but he reaffirmed his support for allowing illegal immigrants who serve in the U.S. military to become citizens.

“I want to make the system far more simple and transparent. You shouldn’t have to hire lawyers to find out how to legally immigrate to the United States,” Romney said without adding details. “I will shift our diversity visas to instead bring together immediate family members. I will structure our temporary worker visa program so that it meets the needs of our employers. And if someone gets an advanced degree, I want them to stay here, so I’d staple a green card to their diploma.”

Email: wdouglas@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @williamdouglas

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