Romney Can No Longer be the “Not Obama” Candidate

Rich Lowry at the National Review Online thinks the election is no longer a referendum on Barack Obama. Bill Clinton articulated Obama’s defense during his DNC speech, requiring Romney to be more than the “I’m not Obama” candidate.

 …20 minutes into his sprawling oration at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., former president Bill Clinton said that no president — not even the 42nd — could have done a better job fixing the economy than Obama, given the problems the incumbent inherited.

The riff was typically self-regarding. Yet it memorably — and for some voters, persuasively — stated the case for cutting the president slack for his economic stewardship in trying circumstances.

The Big Dog was pushing on something of an open door. Obama has failed, but for a majority of voters, he hasn’t failed enough to make it self-evident that he should go. The Romney campaign spent its convention answering the question: Is it OK to fire Obama if he’s such a fine fellow? When the real question is: Can Romney do any better?

He chastises Romney for his lack of specifics, particularly compared to Bill Clinton’s wonky policy speech.

There’s been nothing to match it for the Republicans, which is one reason that Romney is now tied with Obama on the economy in many recent polls. Election Day is nearly six weeks away, and there’s still a sense that the Romney campaign has not yet — although it is moving this way — fully begun to make its case on substance.

Like David Brooks, he urges Romney to be himself, get specific, and point out the President’s lack of specific policies for the next four years.

In the end, righting his campaign depends entirely on Romney himself. He is not a natural ideologue, nor — obviously — a natural backslapper. But he is a data-obsessed salesman. He should be pitching his program with all the zeal and airtight attention to detail of a presentation for a Bain Capital business deal.

It may be easier to make a future-oriented argument than a backward-looking argument against the president. He has no second-term agenda to speak of, besides a tax increase and some more budget meetings with presumed House Speaker John Boehner. How did those meetings turn out last time?

I do feel its a bit early to call this election for Barack Obama. In our hyper-fast media culture we have lost our attention spans and short term memories. Anything can happen in 6 weeks, but time is quickly running out for Romney. Early voting has already started in over 20 states, and the crucial swing state Ohio starts soon. I’ll be interested to see if Romney will heed the advise from pundits like Brooks and Lowry.

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