This piece looks at some of Romney’s weaknesses (“The rapid shifts suggest he’s rooting around for a message. When he fights with his rivals, it’s not over the big issues of the day, but smaller things like sanctuary cities and commuter taxes, issues that seem ginned up only for tactical advantage.”) and strengths( “Romney’s successful business career and storied turnaround of the Olympics are also deployed as proof that he has conviction and leadership skills inconsistent with the shape-shifting caricature.”) With his supporters and critics sensing all is not right, he apparently has agreed to turn it up a notch. According to this abcnews.com story, he will go after Rudy will gusto, contending Rudy is “like Hillary.” This of course comes as the Family Research Council Voters Value Summit starts today. In making this charge and making it to the FRC, Romney of course is focusing largely on social issues. Team Rudy has and will likely continue to respond that Romney lacks “core convictions” and that he used to be a whole lot like Hillary on social issues, healthcare, etc. until he started running for president. Romney’s argument may be made more difficult by Thompson’s presence who is likely to say, as he did on sanctuary cities, “you’re not much better Governor.” (That is why McCain and Romney awhile back went at each other to try to become the alternative to Rudy. Doing what Romney is doing –shooting at the leader while he plus others shoot at you — is a tougher proposition.)
Does the rat-tat-tat of campaign spokespeople responding to one another change any voters’ minds? When you talk to people in primary states this sort of stuff hardly seems to register. A great performance by Romney at the FRC and the Florida debate on Sunday and some good poll numbers may quiet the “he’s adrift” story that is taking hold; underwhelming outings and more “it’s tightening in early states” stories will have just the opposite result.
UPDATE: An extensive extract of Romney’s FRC speech is here. It does include the line about “not acting like Hillary Clinton” but is largely about families, with much about his own. And making my point about how difficult it is to get traction against a frontrunner while others are sniping at you, Karen Hanretty for Thompson’s campaign is quoted in the NY Times: “No amount of money that he pours into his campaign can make up for the fact that he has been a proponent of anti-conservative values and has actually worked against the conservative movement on the most fundamental principles of life and family values.”