With polls showing President Barack Obama pulling ahead in swing states, Mitt Romney‘s path to electoral college victory is looking increasingly narrow.The disadvantage is particularly troubling in Ohio, a key battleground state that is crucial to almost any path to electoral college victory. A series of recent polls show the Republican presidential candidate is trailing in the state, with his approval rating on the downward spiral.
But it’s not over yet. Business Insider spoke with Republican activists and consultants in the state who said that Romney still has a chance at turning things around in Ohio if he can win back the confidence of middle-class voters.
Several strategists — most of whom declined to be named criticising the Republican nominee — said that Romney’s biggest problem has been his lack of a coherent campaign message and failure to present himself as a positive alternative to Obama. That lack of message has allowed the Obama campaign to define Romney as the “plutocrat with an equestrian wife,” as one strategist put it.
Duke Bennett, the head of the Ohio Valley Tea Party, said that he has been disappointed by what he sees as a losing strategy by the Romney campaign.
“I don’t think he’s doing the best job he could” Bennett said. “I don’t think he’s doing an effective job of getting his message out. He’s doing more damage control — he needs to go more on the offence than sitting back in the defensive position.”
Still, Bennett doesn’t believe that Romney is as far behind as the polls suggest.
“I talk to too many people every day — everybody is too upset with the price of gas, their job situation.”
But recent polls indicate that Romney’s problems in Ohio have been exacerbated by his campaign’s recent missteps, most notably his “47 per cent” remarks. A Quinnipiac/CBS/NYT poll released yesterday found that 57 per cent of Ohio voters don’t think that Romney “cares about the needs and problems of people like you.”
That’s a troubling number that could have ramifications for Romney beyond Ohio. The Buckeye State is a bellwether for the rest of the country, particularly when it comes to the white, blue-collar, swing voters that are a key voting bloc in other battlegrounds like Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire.
“He needs to demonstrate very clearly that he has the plan to bring radical change to the country, that is going to reawaken entrepreneurs’ ability to create jobs,” said Rex Elsass, who runs a major Columbus-based campaign consulting firm and is currently advising Ohio Gov. John Kasich on his re-election campaign. “He needs to regain confidence — you do that by taking compelling opportunities to demonstrate who it is that you are and what it is that you do. One of the most compelling things in American politics is the promise of change.”
To do this, Elsass said, Romney needs to do a more effective job of helping voters — and his campaign — move past the 47-per cent issue.
“Three weeks ago we had a much more competitive campaign than we have today,” Elsass said. “He needs to regain that confidence — that may require to him to apologise, and say ‘I was misunderstood and here’s what I meant to say’ which he hasn’t done.”
“But that’s just one way to move past it,” he added. “They’ve chosen just to move past it, and I’m hopeful that their approach works.”
Now, Romney has 40 days to redefine the race. To that end, Ohio strategists said that they have seen some positive steps by the campaign, including this week’s bus tour through Ohio, and a new positive ad featuring the candidate. But Romney still has a long way to go.
“He needs discipline,” one strategist said. “He can’t make any more mistakes.”
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