At this point it's axiomatic to say that this has been a terrible September for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney: His campaign was already coming in for criticism before Mother Jones dropped a bombshell video of Romney telling wealthy donors that the 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income tax are entitled, unrepentant moochers he has no plans to try to win over. Now, the knives are really out and, for their own self-serving reasons, "GOP wise men are rushing forward with Romney postmortems," says John Dickerson at Slate. Still, not all Republicans think Romney was wrong, substantively or politically, and seven weeks is a long time in a close-fought election. Here are four things Romney can do to move past his "47 percent disaster":
1. Ride out the storm
"The problem with the whole 'the election is over' analysis is that it defies history — and recent history at that," says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. Four years ago, pundits wrote off Obama after his bitter-guns-and-religion gaffe, and "how'd that work out for Obama? Not too bad." Voters will decide, as they always have, "not on quips but on records and policy." Yeah, if Romney loses, "I don't think the surfacing of this tape will be looked back at as the reason why," says Philip Klein at The Washington Examiner. Some 93 percent of Americans think they pay the right amount or too much in federal taxes, according to Gallup — in other words, few of us think we're part of Romney's mooching 47 percent.
2. Change the conversation
Romney made a stab at this on Tuesday, frequently pointing to a 1998 audio clip, featured at the Romney-friendly Drudge Report, of Obama talking about wealth "redistribution." That fell flat, but Romney still "has nearly 50 more chances to change the narrative," say Glenn Thrush and Byron Tau at Politico. He will try to spin his "47 percent" remark to fit his message, but his best bet might be the huge ad-money advantage of Karl Rove's GPS Crossroads and other allied super PACs. It ain't over, says one Obama ally, "until Karl Rove sings." One "killer ad" could be a game changer, says Ron Fournier at National Journal. But Team Romney will probably "figure out a way to pull out of this spiral and shift attention to a more positive narrative" on its own.
3. Shake up his campaign
"It's time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one" and stage an intervention, says Peggy Noonan at The Wall Street Journal. This leaked tape is a perfect example of how Team Romney is "too small for the moment." Romney is loyal, so he'll resist change, but this isn't just about him, it's about the Republican Party and "a great political philosophy, conservatism." Romney needs to "look straight into the heart of darkness where lies a Republican defeat," and then snap out of his malaise: Start campaigning like he means it, and most importantly, break out the pink slips. At the very least, it will give the media something else to talk about.
4. Give a big speech
Romney's framework, writing off 47 percent of voters, is "too small and pinched and narrow," says The Wall Street Journal's Noonan. But "the big issue — how we view government, what we want from it, what we need, what it rightly asks of us, what it wrongly demands of us — is a good and big and right and serious subject." And it calls for a "big, serious, thoughtful" speech. Yes, "a big speech (with specifics!)," says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post. If Romney gives a "detail-laden (or even detail-sprinkled) speech on what, specifically, he might do in his first 100 days to turn the economy around," the press would have to cover it. A clash of specific differences with Obama "is far more winnable" for Romney than this fight, and as a bonus, it would be good for our country.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Yes, Republicans can impeach President Obama
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- Why Texas' abortion rates aren't falling as quickly as everyone expected
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- What religious traditionalists can teach us about sex
- The 5 best and worst states for a well-lived life
- Why all drugs should be legal. (Yes, even heroin.)
- 7 ideas from ancient thinkers that will improve your modern life
- The science behind Captain America's shield, The Hulk's anger, and more
- Twin Peaks: What the newly revealed 'missing pieces' change about the series
Subscribe to the Week