• With: Paul Gigot, Dorothy Rabinowitz, Jason Riley, Dan Henninger, Collin Levy

    This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," August 25, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

    PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," our Republican convention preview. As Mitt Romney prepares for his Tampa debut, polls show many Americans still have not warmed to him, so what can he do to connect?

    Plus, the Republican Party then and now. A look at today's GOP -- what defines it, who is a part of it, and how has it changed?

    And President Obama's new line of attack. This week, it is education, not Medicare, but the class war rhetoric stays the same.

    Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.

    All eyes are on Mitt Romney as he makes his official debut as the Republican presidential nominee Thursday night in Tampa, Florida. Going into the convention, just 38 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of the former Massachusetts governor. What can he do to help turn that around?

    Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; Political Diary editor, Jason Riley; and editorial board member, Dorothy Rabinowitz.

    So, Dorothy, people haven't warmed to Mitt Romney. We know that. What does he need to do to communicate with people to change that opinion of him?

    DOROTHY RABINOWITZ, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: He has to open himself up in a way that he hasn't before. In a way that many politicians don't, but he especially. The talent on the political trail is you make a list of all of the things you are going to do. We're going to close this department, we're going to do this. What Mitt Romney has to do is sustain a speech, a long speech at the convention and elsewhere, where he says, I know there's anguish in this land. I know that there is long-term unemployment. He has to, instead of passing over that, and say, I'm going to fix it. He's going to say, I know what it should feel like to go to -- I know what it should feel like to go to the employment office, to have no answers, to have nothing. Let him draw a description of what Americans are feeling like. Everybody in America knows somebody who is unemployed. Everybody has a cousin, uncle. This reaches to the hard of showing who he is, they have never seen before someone who has incorporated.


    GIGOT: OK, interesting. You are basically saying, to borrow a cliche from Bill Clinton, he needs to show people that he feels their pain?

    RABINOWITZ: Yes. Yes

    GIGOT: Jason, do you agree with that?

    JASON RILEY, EDITOR, POLITICAL DIARY: Well, one of the reasons that hasn't happened so far has to do with the Obama machine. He's been outspent. He will have a little more money to tap into after the nomination.


    RILEY: Obama has been defining Romney with negative ads and negative ads work. So he will be able to push back some.

    Whether he should use that opportunity to go toe-to-toe on likeability with Obama I'm not so sure.

    GIGOT: Or empathy. I think she is saying empathy.

    RILEY: I'm not sure. I think that might play to Obama's strength. He would do better to focus on his accomplishments as governor, keeping unemployment low, saving the Olympics in Utah, his business record success at Bain. Keep the focus on his accomplishments. Let Obama play the likeability game. I don't think that that plays to Romney's --


    RABINOWITZ: The problem with this is it doesn't work. It has not worked. We have heard enough about the Olympics there. I hate to say this. I hate to bring up this subject. But Franklin Roosevelt, when he died, somebody was caught crying, and the reporter said to him, did you know Mr. Roosevelt? He said, I didn't know Mr. Roosevelt, but he knew me.

    GIGOT: All right, Dan, embracing -- mediate the dispute, where do you come down on this? They are going to bring in these key testimonials all week to his business success, his Olympic success, Bain Capital, now embracing it as he did in an op-ed in -- Romney did himself in an op-ed in our paper. So they want to bring out this record of success and this personal portrait.

    DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: I don't disagree with Dorothy and Jason that Romney has to do these things. The election however is not about Mitt Romney. It is about the American people, and the situation they are in right now. I would push a little further than what Dorothy has suggested, which is that Mitt Romney is representing himself as a guy who understands business. He wrote and published a piece on the Wall Street Journal editorial page this Friday in which he described four or five businesses he worked with. He has to go out there and talk about what is in the minds of employers now who are not hiring the Americans who want jobs. Why aren't they doing that? That's something Mitt Romney understands. And what has Barack Obama done to prevent those employers from making those hires? He has to make them understand he knows the way the economy works and why it isn't working.

    GIGOT: That speaks to his personal experience exactly.

    HENNINGER: Exactly.

    GIGOT: What about the agenda, Jason? People are looking for answers. Right? The people that Dorothy talks about, who are hurting, they want to know, not only does Romney get it, but what is he going to do for them, and how is he going to do it specially? Tell me, what are the three, four or five items that he needs to layout, or just give me a couple that would reassure people that he has answers?

    RILEY: Jobs foremost on people's minds.


    GIGOT: But how?

    RILEY: He would probably say, I need to lift the regulatory burdens off of businesses, give people some sense of security when it comes to the future, what tax rates are going to be and so forth. Everyone talking about this fiscal cliff we are on. That does not help in terms of job creation and economic growth. I want to give people some certainty. I think that's got to be part of his agenda in terms of what he would do differently than what Obama has done.

    GIGOT: Dorothy?

    RABINOWITZ: Well, it the doing that we have heard before. And, yes, we could use more of that. But the real sense I'm talking about is make people feel he knows what we are going through. That is the one thing that has fallen short in all polls. No, he doesn't really understand where I am at. This is the opportunity to say, yes, I know anguish.

    HENNINGER: But then they have to know how they are going to get from where they are into a better future.


    GIGOT: He has to do --


    GIGOT: He has to do both, a personal and the --


    GIGOT: And the polls are even, even with his personal approval being favorable as being down. This convention gives him a chance to break out if he can connect in some way.