Saturday 22 November 2014

'Born again' Mitt enjoys new bounce in campaign

Peter Foster Sidney, Ohio

Published 12/10/2012 | 05:00

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign rally at the US Cellular Center on October 11, 2012, in Asheville, NC. Photo: AP

Mitt Romney has discovered that his new-found bounce is not confined to the opinion polls.

With a skip and a hop, the Republican candidate comes bounding on to a stage surrounded by nearly 10,000 supporters and looks out over the sea of faces.

The all new Mitt Romney is peppier, sparkier and -- thanks largely to his performance in last week's presidential debate in Denver -- now exhibits that most priceless and elusive of qualities in a challenger: confidence.

This Romney has total confidence in the new product.

"My whole passion is helping the American people who are struggling right now," he says, plugging his own 25 years in business, "and I know how to use that skill and knowledge to get America working again!"

Only three weeks ago Mr Romney was being pilloried for writing off "47pc" of Americans as spongers; now he emotes convincingly on his desire to help the hard up. All week, the Obama camp has cried impostor, but the charge, which Mr Obama failed to level in Denver when he had the chance, now sounds like sour grapes.

The Obama campaign is not panicking yet -- supporters reason that one bad debate performance cannot undo an entire campaign -- but the risk for them is that the more people hear of from the moderate, but raring-to-go Romney, the more they will like what they hear.

The polls are narrowing, but with just 26 days left to election day, the electoral map still leans structurally in Mr Obama's favour. A new NBC survey gave him a six-point lead in Ohio. The president also has a superior "ground game"; the grassroots network to get out the vote which will be crucial here and in other battlegrounds such as Florida and Virginia.

That deficit was painfully displayed when Rob Portman -- an Ohio senator and a clever but grey figure who was Mr Romney's sparring partner before the debate -- shouted out to the crowd at an Ohio rally: "Hands up who has put up a yard sign for Romney? And who has made a phone call for Romney?" Only a smattering hands rose.

Mr Romney remains the definite outsider but whatever the truths of the polls, over the past week he has taken arguably most important step towards winning: exhibiting for all to see the belief that he really can.

But pondering the turnaround in his boss's fortunes, Stuart Stevens, the Romney campaign chief strategist who rightly or wrongly took much of the blame for the chaos of the early campaign, says the debate laid bare two truths that had become lost in the first phase.

Firstly, Mr Romney was never really the crazed, "vulture capitalist" that the Obama campaign had made him out to be and, secondly, Mr Obama has never convincingly set out his own vision to provide jobs and growth in his second term.

"They're trying to run out the clock. For their strategy to work, you had to hate Mitt Romney, but the debate killed off that idea," Mr Stevens said. "Their whole strategy has collapsed and they don't have anything else -- that's why they're talking about Big Bird."

Such has been the whiplash effect of that debate. A week ago the Obama campaign's decision to hit Mr Romney for his promise to cut funding to public broadcasting and the famous yellow bird of 'Sesame Street' might have seemed hip, smart -- but now it risks looking merely shallow and trivial.

Mr Romney was certainly enjoying making out so: "You have to scratch your head when the president spends the last week talking about saving Big Bird," he said to guffaws and hisses from the crowd, "when I think we need to talk about saving the American people and saving good jobs."

Energy

Mr Obama's lack of a road map for the next four years is what is really hurting the president now, according to Mr Portman.

"There's a new energy on the ground in Ohio and you can see that by the more than 10,000 people turning up at our rallies," he said before addressing a Romney event at a factory in Mt Vernon.

"The debate has helped because it has given us an opportunity to talk directly to individuals who have yet to make up their minds, including workers at this factory. President Obama offers four more years of the same, when Mitt Romney has fresh, positive ideas to create jobs." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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