Published November 01, 2011
The Romney campaign believes they are on a path to victory and that no candidate running can stop them from winning the Republican nomination for president. As such, they have adopted a very different approach and strategy than the one the former Massachusetts governor used four years ago.
Four years ago, Governor Romney was omnipresent with TV ads, interviews-- doing everything he could to boost his name recognition.
This year he is doing just about the opposite.
Now, four years after his first run for president, he doesn't need name recognition. In fact, what he needs is clarity of identity and message. Consequently, he has focused his energy and efforts on carefully organized visits and to key constituency groups and he has made it his business to avoid the national media and to avoid the kind of interviews that could cause him problems.
About the only thing he has done, and he has done is very well, is to debate. And in those debates he has given the clear impression that he is presidential and ready to govern in a way that none of his other opponents have done.
It hasn't resulted in his poll numbers going up, but it has resulted in his stature with the media and with key political and funding groups to increase and increase substantially.
Even though his overall poll numbers haven't increased, the former governor and his staff believe that this consolidation of elite support in the so called "1%" will pay real dividends down the road.
The governor believes two things about the primary process just ahead.
First, that he has limited, but real appeal in the Republican primaries and caucuses. Probably enough appeal to get nominated, but not enough appeal under any circumstance to galvanize, mobilize or otherwise stimulate broad interest among a Republican primary electorate that is more conservative, more activist, and less Wall Street and less corporate than he is.
But with the failure of Chris Christie to run, and Herman Cain's indecision on the campaign trail, combined with his latest scandal regarding alleged sexual harassment when he was at the National Restaurant Association, there is every reason to believe that Cain is, at the very least, in for a rough patch.
Moreover, since Cain appears to have been as interested in selling his book as he has with selling his campaign for the White House, there is also every reason to believe that Romney's strategy is on target for the primaries.
The only real issue inside the Romney campaign, one that they are probably debating right now, is how much interest and attention to put into Iowa in the wake of the most recent Iowa poll. That poll showed Cain and Romney virtually tied with the former Massachusetts governor trailing by a statistically insignificant one percent.
Inside the campaign, there are certainly those saying "If we win Iowa and then win New Hampshire, the race is over. We can even afford a loss in South Carolina, should that happen."
Others, more tentative, are almost certainly saying "Let's not make too big a commitment to Iowa, because if we lose like we did last time to Mike Huckabee, we could be far more hurt and we will still be able to use New Hampshire as a type of mini firewall."
My own take is that given the weaknesses of the Herman Cain candidacy, it probably makes sense to make a greater rather than a lesser effort in Iowa. But that being said, there is a clear sense in the Romney camp that you can't beat somebody with nobody, and right now the rest of the field doesn't present a real challenge worthy of belief that that challenge could jeopardize Governor Romney's chance of winning the nomination.
Moreover, the Romney camp is desperately worried that if they move too far to the right to try to appease a restive primary electorate, this effort will jeopardize their position in the general election vis-a-vis President Obama. They hey remain within striking distance of the president in polls nationally and within key electoral states.
So the Romney campaign is effectively a holding action. It is a somewhat more risky strategy than it may appear to be, but given that the former Massachusetts governor has issues regarding his health care position, his role in job creation, and Bain Capital, and his position on the environment and climate change, as well as abortion, it is probably the best strategy he can adopt under circumstances where voters are skeptical of politicians who have advised Wall Street and have served in elective office.
Douglas E. Schoen is a political strategist and Fox News contributor. His most recent book is "Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System" published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins.