Published for the Wall Street Journal, August 8, 2012
Wednesday’s Gallup poll had President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney essentially tied, with Mr. Obama at 47% and Mr. Romney at 46%. That’s good news for the challenger: Mr. Romney has absorbed a punishing three-month Obama television barrage that drained the incumbent’s war chest. Historically, undecided voters tend to break late for the challenger.
Mr. Romney and his campaign have also raised their game. After Mr. Obama declared on July 13 that “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that,” Mr. Romney went on offense, saying the following Tuesday in Pennsylvania that the notion entrepreneurs didn’t build their businesses was “insulting.” Wednesday in Ohio, Mr. Romney attacked Mr. Obama for not having met with his Jobs Council for six months. Thursday in Massachusetts, Mr. Romney belittled the White House’s explanation that the president had failed to do so because he “has a lot on his plate.” The following Tuesday in Nevada before the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Mr. Romney criticized Mr. Obama over cuts in defense and veterans care.
Each time, Mr. Romney’s message was delivered in the morning and dominated the day’s coverage. That change appears now to be standard procedure for Team Romney.
Last week Mr. Romney began laying out a crisper, shorter economic agenda. His “Plan for a Stronger Middle Class” is built around five priorities: promoting more domestic energy, cultivating skills for economic success, making trade work for America, cutting the deficit, and championing small business (including tax and regulatory reform and the repeal of ObamaCare). It also compares the candidates’ records in office. Jobs, home values, and family income rose—while budget deficits and unemployment declined—in Massachusetts under Mr. Romney, whereas all these measures are in the wrong direction under Mr. Obama.