I mentioned in a brief comment yesterday that Mitt Romney has to do more than attack President Obama’s record if he’s to win this election. He has to convince voters he’s a credible alternative they can trust with the job.
I planned to expound on that thought in a future blog post, but Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics beat me to the punch.
Trende begins his piece — worth reading in its entirety — by noting some key findings of a recent Pew poll:
Specifically, Trende writes, among the voters most likely to still be making up their minds, independents,
… 42 percent say they want to know more about his record as governor, 37 percent want to know more about his record as CEO of Bain Capital, and 35 percent want to know more about his tax returns. Just 21 percent of independents want to know more about his wealth, 19 percent want to know more about his family and upbringing, and 16 percent want to know more about his religious beliefs.”
This, Trende explains, is indicative of the kind of election which is a referendum on the incumbent. In such contests, he says, voters ask themselves two questions: “First, do I want the president to be re-elected? Second, is the challenger so unacceptable that I simply can’t bring myself to vote for him?”
Almost all voters have made up their minds about Obama, so question 2 is clearly in play at this point. And yet, the Romney campaign is spending almost its time and money attacking Obama rather than explaining who Romney is — leaving it to the Obama campaign to define Romney on its own. Negatively, of course.
Trende theorizes that Obama’s negative ads may not have moved the needle in opinion polls yet because undecided voters are waiting to hear what Romney has to say about himself.
Right or wrong about that last point — I’m not really sure — Trende is spot-on correct about the rest in my view. Pointing out that the economy is still stagnant is fine, but it’s inadequate. Romney has to explain who he is, what he wants to do, and how the former proves he can accomplish the latter.
There will be opportunities to do that: The Republican Party’s convention late next month will (or should) be a time for the GOP to burnish Romney’s image and tell his story. The question is whether he can wait until Labor Day to begin defining himself. I tend to think not.
– By Kyle Wingfield