• With: Dan Henninger; Jason Riley, Kim Strassel, Mary Anastasia O'Grady, Matt Kaminski


    GIGOT: But this was the -- if you look at Gallup's results, they show that Mitt Romney's convention speech was the least well received by a nominee in modern history. 38 percent liked it, versus 52, if I recall correctly for John McCain's speech four years earlier, which was not exactly a barn burner.


    HENNINGER: I certainly agree with Kim that, in the absence of Romney counteracting both that barrage of ads, the Clinton attack and everything else with anything more substantive than he gave, it's not surprising that he's fallen off.

    GIGOT: Well, this is the thing, Kim. The Romney speech was fundamentally biographical. It was an attempt to repair his image, particularly with Independents and women, and say I'm a nice guy, I'm really -- you know, I do a lot of charity, I like women, I appointed them to high positions in Massachusetts. But it didn't explain economic policy. It didn't say, in specific detail, what his plan would do and why it's better. Particularly the tax plan, for example, which, as Dan pointed out, was under so much attack. In contrast, Bill Clinton really laid out, in partisan terms -- but, of course, these speeches are partisan -- but he explained why he thinks Obama's plan is better.

    STRASSEL: No, I -- look, the Romney campaign is going to have to connect the dots here at some point. You go back to the last time that President Obama had this lead, it was when Mitt Romney was running this biographical campaign, a referendum campaign against the president. and when he started to make some progress was when he picked Paul Ryan and looked as though he was running a campaign of ideas.

    Now, starting with the convention, and going on in some -- in some speeches and in some media appearances, that enthusiasm seems to have disappeared again. He's once again just out there attacking the president on the economy, and it's not working. And he's got to go out and offer this narrative, his own alternative narrative for what actually did happen. And he's got to convince people that the policy he has are going to get from point "A" to point "B."

    GIGOT: OK.

    STRASSEL: It's not good enough to say I'm going to make 12 million jobs. You've got to say how.

    GIGOT: All right, Jason?

    RILEY: And quickly, one reason that this bounce is likely to have some legs I think is because of those events in the Middle East that you were talking about in previous sessions. When things like this happen, the country tends to gather, at least initially, rally around the president, so Obama may benefit politically from that as well.

    GIGOT: OK, Jason, thanks.

    Still ahead, Mitt Romney's failure to get specific on his tax plan and economic policies may be catching up with him. We'll look at the latest poll numbers and what the Romney campaign is doing to fight back, next.


    GIGOT: Mitt Romney's failure to get specific about his economic policies does seem to be taking its toll. A new Fox News poll has the two candidates tied at 46 percent when it comes to which candidate voters trust more to improve the economy and create jobs. A similar poll in June gave Romney a seven-point edge. And on tax policy, the president now leads Romney 48 percent to 45 percent. In June, Romney was more trusted in Obama on that front, 44 to 40 percent.

    So, Dan, you mentioned the tax reform debate and the president's attacks on Romney's tax plan. We've got to add that the Obama campaign is releasing this week -- let's look at it.


    AD ANNOUNCER: He won't reveal what's in his taxes and he won't tell you what he'd do to yours. To pay for huge new tax breaks for millionaires like him, Romney would have to raise taxes on the middle class. $2,000 for a family with children, says a nonpartisan report. You could lose the deduction for your home mortgage, college tuition, health care. How much would you pay? Romney just won't say.


    GIGOT: All right, Dan. First of all, let's just say that the use of the Wall Street Journal in that ad was not sanctioned by this newspaper.


    And we don't want to be associated at all with this argument, which I fundamentally think is false.


    GIGOT: But we'll get to that. But what about this ad and what it does to the Romney campaign?

    HENNINGER: Well, I think the -- what the Obama campaign is doing is just completely surfing under the zeitgeist of the (INAUDIBLE), which is tremendous economic anxiety out there. People are concerned. And so Obama has separated himself from the 8 percent unemployment, the very low-growth rate. But people have it in their head, and an ad like that is suggesting that Mitt Romney has the plan to take away benefits that currently exist for people. And in the absence of any sort of counter argument from Romney, criticizing -- I don't think he has to get into the details of his tax plan. That's a dead end game.

    GIGOT: One line on his tax plan that he gave in his convention speech was "And by the way, I will not raise taxes on the middle class." Well, thanks, Mitt. Great.


    RILEY: That as a problem. But the lack of a response, Dan. So much of this is inflicted by Romney. the way he's not released his tax return, he's left an opening. The public -- you can sympathize with them in thinking maybe he's trying to hide something here. He has been very scant on the details. His argument is, if I give them details, I'm giving the other side fodder to attack me. Yes, but trust the American people that you can make an argument that they can understand. And Romney hasn't done that.

    GIGOT: I should say, Kim, that this ad, relying on the Tax Policy Center study, is entirely false, because the Romney campaign, as it said, it won't raise taxes on middle class. It is in fact -- the Tax Policy Center itself says that the study is essentially speculative on that point, saying that some loopholes that Romney says he might be willing to close to pay for the tax cut, that wouldn't be able to do that politically. Therefore, they sort of just speculate that he would have to raise taxes on the middle class. And now, the Obama campaign has taken that and says, oh, he will for sure.

    STRASSEL: Right.

    GIGOT: So, we want to stipulate that that is false. But effectiveness?

    STRASSEL: Well, it's appalling that they're doing it. And I would also note, too, of all of the headlines out there, it took the "Wall Street Journal" to give them some more credibility, to sort of say, even the "Wall Street Journal" suggests something like this.

    But you know, the problem here for Mr. Romney is that Mr. Obama is filling in the blanks that he's not giving himself. And until Mitt Romney goes out and talks about what his tax reform is, and explains it from beginning to end -- and he can give a couple of examples about -- for instance, how he would close special-interest tax loopholes.

    GIGOT: Yes.

    STRASSEL: Things that nobody could agree with in the tax policy. These are the things that really get Americans animated. They hate the tax code. It's a winner for him. But his refusal to talk about it is allowing the president to tell Americans what Mitt Romney's plan is --


    GIGOT: All right, now we have an ad -- want to take a look at an ad Mitt Romney is releasing on the economy this week, focusing on China and Americans jobs.


    AD ANNOUNCER: This is America's manufacturing when President Obama took office. This is China's. Under Obama, we've lost over half a million manufacturing jobs. And for the first time, China is beating us. Seven times President Obama could have stopped China's cheating. Seven times he refused.