In June, when President Obama's re-election campaign appeared to be struggling, commentators offered his political team plenty of unsolicited advice. Now, the pundit class has decided that Mitt Romney's campaign is stuck in the doldrums: Yes, Romney is raking in campaign cash hand over fist, but he botched his response to the Supreme Court's ObamaCare ruling, has been unable to come up with an effective retort to the Democrats' hammering on his financial holdings in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands, took a weird and somewhat opulent vacation, and most recently got booed at an NAACP conference. Luckily, as with Obama, armchair strategists have plenty of advice on how Romney can right his campaign ship. Here's a look at five of their ideas:
1. Romney needs to get out more
Romney has run a very safe, risk-averse campaign so far, and it's time he got "out of his comfort zone," says Jill Lawrence at National Journal. That means more town hall events, more press conferences, more of any situation where he has to think on his feet. He's proven pretty shaky so far when faced with unexpected questions or comments, and it's "better to get your sea legs now when people's minds are wrapped around summer vacation — and not later when you're on the debate stage with a sitting president, a persistent moderator, and most of the country watching."
2. He should offer specific proposals to fix America
"Details are supposed to be the death of a candidate, but this year I think banalities are," and Romney is offering nothing but worthless "boilerplate generalities," says Victor Davis Hanson at National Review. Instead of vaguely promising to cut taxes, repeal ObamaCare, and get America "back to work," Romney has to explain how he'd do those things. The best idea is to "offer — and soon — a sort of Contract With America that gives short, concise agendas on fiscal policy, energy, the tax code, and health care that really would be shovel-ready in January 2013." The more specific Romney's solutions are, the more people will focus on Obama's failed policies.
3. Romney absolutely needs to fire up conservatives
The Right is pretty fired up to vote against Obama, but they also need to know that Romney is on their side, Sarah Palin told Fox News' Sean Hannity. "Romney has said before that he doesn't want to have to light his hair on fire. Well, there are a lot of his base supporters, independents who are saying, 'Well, light our hair on fire, then! Remind us how important it is that we get engaged.'" The Tea Party isn't the only group urging the GOP challenger to fight. Romney has to "up his game and be more reactive," a New York money manager waiting to attend a $25,000-a-head Romney fund-raiser in the Hamptons tells the Los Angeles Times. The "very timid offense" he's displayed so far won't cut it.
4. He should learn how to talk about his vast wealth
"Romney's problem is that while he was very good at getting rich, he isn't any good at being rich," says Joshua Green at Bloomberg. "In fact, he's downright terrible at it." In instance after instance, he either demonstrates a "strange compulsion to talk about his wealth in unbecoming ways" or, worse, insists that critics are just jealous of his bank account. Romney could study how George W. Bush, JFK, and other super-rich candidates managed to sound "gracious and thoughtful" about their wealth, but instead he seems content to play into "Team Obama's preferred image of Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat concerned only for those with a comparable net worth."
5. It's time to release his tax returns
Democrats are hounding Romney to release more than just a year of his tax returns, pointing out that he gave 23 years' worth to John McCain's 2008 VP vetters and that his father, George Romney, released 12 years of returns in his run for the White House, says Frank Rich at New York. "Unless and until he comes clean, the issue will keep metastasizing." Yes, given his shiftiness on the subject, "it's no surprise that America is concluding that Romney is not releasing his tax returns because he has something to hide," says Henry Blodget at Yahoo Finance. Because he does: He's "made eye-popping amounts of money," and probably used every legal means to avoid paying taxes on it. "He should still release his returns." Americans have every right to know how the man who wants to manage our economy manages his own wealth.